The programme of ‘world class commissioning’ (WCC) was launched in December 2007 in an attempt to improve the standards of commissioning in the NHS. It was felt that there had been a failure to transfer power from providers to those purchasing services on behalf of the local population since the purchaser/provider split.
The Department of Health set out its vision of WCC in Adding life to years and years to life in addition to publishing an animation clip.
The department identified 11 competencies that world class commissioners were expected to demonstrate:
- local NHS leadership – proactively leading on the agenda locally and being viewed as a leading authority on healthcare
- working with community partners – considering the wider determinants of health and collaborating with local government and other partners to develop a shared ambition
- engaging with public and patients – acting on their behalf to make decisions
- collaborating with clinicians – gaining the best clinical advice and insight to inform decision making
- managing knowledge and assessing local needs – accessing a range of intelligence sources including joint strategic needs assessments
- prioritising investment – gaining a sound knowledge of local needs in order to decide on strategic and investment plans
- stimulating the market
- promoting improvement and innovation – continually seeking improvements to services
- securing procurement skills – building productive relationships with providers
- managing the local health system – working with providers to improve and sustain services, and
- making sound financial investments.
The government put in place an assurance framework to assess the annual progress of primary care trusts (PCTs). This process was set up with the aim of helping PCTs to understand their performance and improve specific areas, if needed, following assessment. The assurance process also held PCTs to account, rewarded success and acted as a benchmarking tool. The process was managed by strategic health authorities (SHAs).
The department committed to assisting PCTs to develop the right skills for commissioning by providing guidance and support to those aspiring to become world class commissioners, and stated that:
‘The NHS has real potential to develop world class commissioning – investing NHS funds to secure the maximum improvement in health and wellbeing outcomes from the available resources. As world class commissioners, primary care trusts (PCTs) must take on the mantle of trusted community leaders, working with their local population, partners and clinicians, leading the local NHS.’