Commissioning: Background and evidence reviews

There are an increasing number of reviews that describe what commissioning is and review the evidence pertaining to this concept.  Some of these are written from particular vantage points (e.g. community sector, health or commercial sector view) or focus on particular types of commissioning approaches (e.g. integrated, strategic, intelligent).  Here I have summarised some of those which I think are most helpful in providing a good background and sense of the evidence around commissioning in a general sense.

I’ve done a few of these reviews myself in recent years.  The most recent of these was published by the Melbourne School of Government and this sought to extract lessons from the evidence base that are of relevance to the Australian context.  This review examines what commissioning is and what is important in developing a commissioning approach.  This built on previous work I had been involved in, such as this review of different commissioning models that was done for the National Audit Office in the UK in 2012.  The report focused particularly about the role that the third sector plays in these models (and was published by the Third Sector Research Centre).

The UK Cabinet Office hosts a commissioning academy and this sets out a short and very straightforward introduction to this concept.  It was published a few years back but provides a helpful overview before starting to delve into the detail.  For those with an interest in children’s services, this document can be a helpful companion, containing some case studies to exemplify these ideas in practice.  The Office for Public Management sets out a literature review of multi-level commissioning which provides definitions of this concept.

In 2015, the Irish Government undertook a ‘rapid review‘ into the evidence relating to commissioning in human, social and community services.  This is a pretty helpful introduction to commissioning in Ireland, what commissioning is, the different approaches and models and the benefits, risks, impact and cost of commissioning.  The report finishes with a series of key messages such as the need for a coherent policy rationale, the need for a clear definition of commissioning and that the outcomes of commissioning are hard to measure.

Back in Australia again, the Sax Institute published a rapid review of the evidence for the New South Wales Ministry of Health in 2015.  Again this report cycles through issues such as what is commissioning, what impact it has and the requirements for effective commissioning.  This is focused on the evidence with particular relevance to an Australian primary care context and a focus on supporting chronic disease management.  It finishes with  a series of tables that set out features of the Australian primary care context and the potential impacts and implications for commissioning, which are helpful in thinking through the future operation of this agenda.

There are a range of other reviews around but many of these don’t go beyond the sort of evidence and lessons set out here.  Next time around I’ll put some documents and examples up that deal with commissioning for outcomes.

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