Commissioning co-production

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Commissioners in Everytown needed to re-commission a failing mental health day service. Previous day service contracts had been focused on the activities and outputs that the service had to provide but commissioners wanted to start focussing on outcomes. The commissioners spent time reviewing the outcomes they wanted the service to achieve, drawing from national best practice examples. They developed an outcomes framework for the new service that included social outcomes, local economic outcomes and environmental outcomes. Some people with mental health problems that the commissioners had previously worked with were consulted on these outcomes. Commissioners were concerned that local providers did not understand outcomes or have experience of co-production so some free training events were run locally.

The service specification was released with a clear outcomes framework. Commissioners also included a set of quality characteristics that set out how they wanted providers to work with people who use services. The quality characteristics set out that co-production should be a key feature of the services and that providers should show how they would work with people using the service, and with the wider community. Providers were encouraged to work in consortia in order to bring together the different skills and experiences in the borough. The bids were judged on 55% quality and 45% price.

The winning tender was a consortium of third sector organisations. The service used a Timebanking approach to recognise and reward the time that people using the service, their carers and the wider community contributed. In evaluations people using the service have reported improved mental health; improved work related skills, knowledge and confidence; improved social confidence and getting to know people from different backgrounds; people feeling more confident in accessing mainstream services independently.

This example could be improved by:

  • Working with people who use services, carers and service providers to review existing service provision and identifying existing local assets and resources
  • Engaging people with lived experience throughout the service design and procurement phase, including involving people on procurement panels and giving equal weight to their decisions and the other panel members.
  • Reviewing the procurement method used. Some competitive tendering approaches do not make it easy for local provider organisations to collaborate and make best use of all of the local assets available. Developing an alliance contracting model like they did in Lambeth builds collaboration into the service model and can engage a wider variety of providers to take part.