Commissioning: Good practice online at

A good practice eBook is a useful resource for improving the commissioning of community services, says Meic Phillips

The commissioning eBook is one of the most significant co-operative acts from the Department of Health change agent team, now part of the Care Services Improvement Partnership.

The eBook, a resource to improve commissioning of community services, is aimed at commissioners and those who provide services. It offers good practice in commissioning and makes knowledge freely available to a wide audience. It also tackles some of the issues that relate to community-based health, housing and social care services for adults in England, but it is hoped, in the future, to expand the scope of the eBook.

The e-book is a work in progress. You can visit the Change Agent Team website to use it, identify gaps and contribute ideas, practice, case studies and papers.

If this reads like an advert, it is only because as a provider of a service I believe it offers insights into commissioning for those of us who have until now felt excluded.

In 2005, the service I manage won the Community Care Award for older people. The photograph of us collecting our certificate at the award ceremony consists of three providers, one commissioner, one monitoring officer, delivery staff and a council member, all of whom represented a partnership to deliver.

This partnership began when the London Borough of Tower Hamlets sought ideas from providers about innovative service delivery and engaged with a range of stockholders to test the ideas. As a service provider, excellence in commissioning for us was a result of the commissioners being constructive listeners. We were able to bypass pitfalls by a frank exploration of issues and old-fashioned bargaining and negotiation followed by tweaking as the service developed.

In making available advice, guidance and good practice examples to practitioners, the eBook champions the relationships between agencies that help foster innovation and draws on expertise to find value for money while creating partnerships that can achieve gains for all parties.

I have found the transparency (where offered) both refreshing and confidence-building, not least because of the huge resources deployed in tendering and the financial risks this places on the provider if unsuccessful.

The commissioner who is approachable and chooses to go to see what is out there and how it is being delivered before commissioning or re-commissioning has also contributed to providers’ understanding of what the commissioners want! CC

Meic Phillips is assistant director of Epic Trust, a care and support provider in London

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