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NHS Confederation - Lessons from a decade of NHS commissioning

A new NHS Confederation report distils learning from a decade of PCT commissioning for commissioners in the post-April 2013 NHS.

Put community and clinical engagement 'front and centre', invest time and effort in establishing constructive relationships with partners, and be ready for rigorous, robust conversations with providers and the public about the quality and shape of local services.

These are just three elements of a new NHS Confederation report which distils lessons from more than a decade of NHS commissioning for those taking on commissioning responsibilities - both locally and nationally - in the new NHS system

Ambition, challenge, transition: reflections on a decade of NHS commissioning draws on a series of exclusive interviews with leading figures from in and around primary care trusts (PCTs). Through their candid comments, the report shares with leaders of the new commissioning organisations the key lessons learned - sometimes painfully - during the PCT-era. It recommends ways to build on the period's successes and how to avoid the pitfalls PCTs sometimes faced.

NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar said:

"It would be wrong to pretend the past decade has been plain sailing, but it would be equally wrong to think NHS commissioning is starting again from scratch. From when they first took on their full responsibilities in 2002, many PCTs made significant progress in developing the process of health service commissioning, as well as improving the care of their local communities, and managing all the other challenges they faced.

"It is vital that we don't lose this knowledge as we enter the new era of CCG-led local commissioning and national specialised commissioning. April 2013 isn't a blank sheet for new commissioners - they must stand on the shoulders of their predecessors' successes as they plan out the best way of improving services and the health of their populations."

The report is endorsed by NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC), the independent membership body representing clinical commissioning groups, as providing a clear and thought-provoking description of the realities faced by local NHS commissioning organisations.

Co-chair of the NHSCC's Leadership Group, GP and chair of NHS Bassetlaw Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Steve Kell said:

"Our organisations may be new, but we know we must be conscious of what has come before. As clinicians, and as local commissioners, we recognise the importance of learning from previous commissioning arrangements in an open and constructive way. It is essential we take forward what worked, while learning the right lessons where things were not as effective as they might have been. We must build on the experience and insight from the past to have a strong and effective future."

As well as advice for CCG leaders and others working in commissioning at a local level, the report also contains recommendations for other organisations which will play a key role in successful commissioning in the post-April 2013 health service.

Notes to Editors

1. The NHS Confederation represents all organisations that commission and provide NHS services. It is the only membership body to bring together and speak on behalf of the whole of the NHS. We help the NHS to guarantee high standards of care for patients and best value for taxpayers by representing our members and working together with our health and social care partners.

We make sense of the whole health system, influence health policy and deliver industry-wide support functions for the NHS.

2. NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC) is the independent membership body representing clinical commissioning groups.

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