What is Commissioning in Health and Social Care

What is Commissioning in Health and Social Care?

Policies and Procedures

Care Learning

3 mins READ

Commissioning in health and social care is a critical process that involves the planning, purchasing, and monitoring of services to meet the health and social care needs of a community.

This process ensures that the population receives appropriate, high-quality care, tailored to their specific requirements.

The Commissioning Process

1. Assessment of Needs:

Commissioning begins with a comprehensive needs assessment. This involves analysing the health and social care needs of the population.

Data is gathered from various sources, including public health reports, service user feedback, and demographic studies.

The aim is to understand the prevalence of conditions, the demand for services, and any gaps in current provision.

2. Planning Services:

Based on the needs assessment, commissioners develop strategies to address identified gaps and improve service delivery.

This planning stage involves setting priorities, defining desired outcomes, and allocating resources effectively.

Commissioners work with stakeholders, including service users, healthcare providers, and social care organisations, to co-produce service specifications that detail what services should aim to achieve.

3. Procurement:

Once the services have been planned, commissioners undertake procurement processes to purchase the required services.

This may involve tendering and contracting processes where service providers bid to deliver the services specified.

The aim is to ensure value for money while securing high-quality, effective services. Contracts are drawn up outlining the expectations, performance indicators, and the terms of service provision.

4. Monitoring and Evaluation:

Commissioning does not end with the procurement of services; monitoring and evaluation are crucial.

Commissioners assess the performance of providers against agreed standards and outcomes. This involves regular reviews, feedback from service users, and analysing data on service delivery.

If services do not meet the required standards, commissioners may take corrective actions, which could include renegotiating contracts, implementing improvement plans, or re-commissioning services from alternative providers.

Types of Commissioning in Health and Social Care

Commissioning can be broken down into several categories, based on scope and focus:

Strategic Commissioning

This involves long-term planning aligned with national and regional health and social care policies. It is about understanding future needs and designing services accordingly.

Operational Commissioning

This focuses on the day-to-day management and delivery of services. It involves ensuring that services are operationally efficient and meet immediate needs.

Individual Commissioning

This is person-centred and involves commissioning services based on individual assessments and care plans. It ensures that the needs of specific individuals are met, often through personalised budgets and tailored care packages.

Key Organisations Involved

In the UK, several key organisations play critical roles in the commissioning process:

  • NHS England: Oversees the commissioning of primary care services (GPs, dentists) and specialist services at the national level.
  • Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs): Local organisations responsible for commissioning the majority of healthcare services, including hospital, community health services, and mental health services.
  • Local Authorities: Responsible for commissioning social care services, which include adult social care, children’s services, and public health initiatives.
  • Integrated Care Systems (ICSs): More recently, these have been developed to promote collaboration between NHS organisations, local councils, and other partners. They aim to deliver more integrated and coordinated services.

Challenges in Commissioning

Commissioning in the health and social care sector faces several challenges:

  • Resource Constraints: Limited financial resources require commissioners to make difficult prioritisation decisions.
  • Changing Demographics: An ageing population and increasing prevalence of long-term conditions place additional demands on services.
  • Integration: Ensuring seamless integration between health and social care services can be complex but is necessary for holistic care delivery.
  • Regulation and Accountability: Commissioners must navigate a complex regulatory landscape and ensure transparency and accountability in decision-making processes.


Commissioning in health and social care is a multifaceted process that requires careful planning, purchasing, and monitoring of services. It is essential to ensure that the health and social care needs of the population are met effectively and efficiently. By focusing on outcomes, value for money, and collaborative working, commissioning aims to deliver high-quality care that improves the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities in the UK.

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