“We must all work together in the interests of patients” says the NHS Commissioning Assembly

Spherical collection of words

This comprehensive resource has been written for all the organisations involved in delivering quality services, in particular commissioners and local authorities, who “are responsible for commissioning social care services for adults and children.” The document starts off by explaining what the NHS means by quality, looking at three dimensions, as defined by Lord Ara Darzi in High quality care for all:

  1. Clinical effectiveness
  2. Safety
  3. Patient experience
Many hands held together

This document outlines the responsibilities of each partner to ensure high quality services

Creating partnerships

The next section is the largest and goes through all the key organisations, outlining their responsibilities, so that everyone involved is clear about their role and how each organisation should work together to support the commissioning of high quality services. This will lead to a better understanding of how commissioners should work with all the system organisations to support the best quality outcomes for the patients. The organisations include:

  • Care Quality Commission and Healthwatch
  • Clinical Commissioning Groups
  • Local Authorities
  • Monitor, the sector regulator for healthcare in England
  • NHS England
  • NHS Trust Development Authority, which makes sure that trusts are delivering high quality care
Shiny brass key

Towards the end of the document, there are a number of key messages for commissioners

Key messages for commissioners

Towards the end of the document, there are a number of key messages for commissioners together with case studies and further contact details:

  1. “Listen to the voices of the patients and the public
  2.  Triangulate data and intelligence
  3. Make use of the levers available
  4. Walk the service – look and see
  5. Share concerns and take action”

To help with commissioning quality services, Appendix A contains a list of data sources, “from which commissioners can derive intelligence.” There is also a helpful glossary which identifies all the acronyms associated with commissioning.

Compass with quality as the markers

The main emphasis of this document is that “we must all work together in the interests of patients.”


The main emphasis of this document is that “we must all work together in the interests of patients.” It is a very useful resource, clearly and succinctly describing the importance of commissioning for quality. It is fairly short, but invaluable, because it brings together all the organisations who can improve the quality of care delivered to patients, and demonstrates how they need to and can work together. It contains a lot of information, based on the best evidence, and case studies, with some in the form of videos from public sector organisations around England. The videos are good because they can be shared during team meetings, and they might be better received than just reading through the text because the people talking are in similar roles to your own. They help you realise what can be achieved and what barriers there might be. It is always useful to have something to prompt new ideas and further discussion

Finally, it can be difficult to understand what can be shared safely and with which organisations. Appendix B provides information about some basic tasks and concepts for commissioners to think about with regards to information governance. Read through this section and go through the checklist so that you are confident that you are sharing information in a secure manner to protect all parties involved.


Commissioning for quality: Views from commissioners (PDF)
NHS Commissioning Assembly
July 2014

Supporting material

Setting 5-year ambitions for improving outcomes: A how-to-guide for commissioners (PDF)
NHS Commissioning Assembly
December 2013

High quality care for all: NHS next stage review final report (PDF)
Department of Health
June 2008

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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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