“Voluntary and independent sectors can participate in the delivery of commissioning support”, says report

Hand sharing love

This report is about how the voluntary and independent sectors can support the commissioning process, and is aimed at them, the clinical commissioning groups, and the commissioning support units.

Word outsource with arrows all round

The voluntary sector can provide expertise and value in several areas

Key elements

The key required commissioning support elements, as described in Figure 1 of this report, include:

  • Health needs assessment, using the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and existing data, and identifying gaps.
  • Business intelligence, gathered by collecting and analysing patient data, experience and outcomes.
  • Re-design of local services and pathways, involving not just the health and social care professionals and managers, but also patients and carers.
  • Communication, engagement, and involvement, with all the key stakeholders, and in particular patients and carers.
  • Procurement, including “identifying best value providers”, the tendering process, negotiation, and contract management.
  • Provider management, which involves making sure that the services are delivered to the standards set out.
Non profit words and clouds

Commissioning support is already provided by the voluntary sector, but only on a “pro bono basis.”

Pro bono

Commissioning support is already provided by the voluntary sector, but only on a “pro bono basis.” So, a more formal structure is required. This report sets out the current situation with commissioning, and then details recommendations to voluntary sector organisations, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Clinical Support Units (CSUs), and NHS England. It includes an overview of current spending and planned expenditure, and a description of how outsourcing takes place. In particular, the voluntary sector can provide expertise and value in the following areas:

  • Needs assessment
  • Business intelligence
  • Service re-design
  • Public and patient engagement.

The report is useful because it includes eleven, relevant case studies of how independent organisations are working to support commissioning and the achievement of strategic aims, such as:

  • QIPP (Quality, Innovation, Productivity, Prevention)
  • Emergency care
  • Round the clock care
  • Integration
  • Dealing with provider failure
  • Delivering the recommendations presented at the Francis Inquiry.

There are useful links to more resources and plenty of guidance on dealing with challenges to make these partnerships a success.

Four people standing on a pie chart, with three white, and one red

The report is useful because it includes eleven, relevant case studies of how independent organisations are working to support commissioning


The recommendations are neatly broken down by audience. So think about where your organisation lies within the audience and then see what the report suggests as your recommendations. If you are a voluntary/independent organisation, think of what you can offer your local CCGs and CSUs ways, and how to sustain relationships with them. Do you have a clear idea of what services you can offer? Are there people you know within these organisations that you can start conversations with? CSUs and CCGs should think in broader terms and not just look within the local health environment for support, but also externally, at charities, and other independent organisations, particularly those involved in social care. Perhaps within your teams, you could carry out a network analysis to see which organisations you are already in contact with and what they could offer you and start off building links that way. This will help make the service more integrated efficient and in the long-term will help improve the whole health and social care experience for patients, carers, and staff.


Role of the voluntary sector in providing commissioning support (PDF)
H Holder
Nuffield Trust
November 2013

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Caroline De Brún

Caroline De Brún

Caroline has been a medical librarian in a variety of NHS and academic roles since 1999, working in academic, primary and secondary care settings, service improvement, knowledge management, and on several high profile national projects. She has a PhD in Computing and currently develops resources to support evidence-based cost and quality, including QIPP @lert, a blog highlighting key reports from health care and other sectors related to service improvement and QIPP (Quality, Innovation, Productivity, Prevention). She also delivers training and resources to support evidence identification and appraisal for cost, quality, service improvement, and leadership. She is co-author of the Searching Skills Toolkit, which aims to support health professionals' searching for best quality clinical and non-clinical evidence. Her research interests are health management, commissioning, public health, consumer health information literacy, and knowledge management. She currently works as a Knowledge and Evidence Specialist for Public Health England, and works on the Commissioning Elf in her spare time.

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