Developing a new day care service

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Three neighbouring councils in an urban area pooled their budgets for day care. Commissioners created the new service specification by combining elements of the previous three local contracts. Information from each council's Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and Market Position Statement was used to inform the new service.

The new service specification contained clear details of the activities and outputs that should be delivered and the expected unit costs of these. The total budget for the new service was reduced by 15% as commissioners felt that pooling the three contracts would produce efficiency savings. When developing the new service commissioners felt that there wasn't time to talk to people who use services or carers. They did not speak to provider organisations during the development of the new contract because they were worried about breaching procurement law.

The new service commission was put onto the online portal. Due to the large area that the service was required to cover commissioners only received four submissions. They were from large private or third sector organisations. Commissioners held a meeting to assess the applications and invited someone using the current service to attend. They were given questions to ask. There wasn't enough time for them to write any of their or questions or to talk to peers about this before the meeting. The proposals were assessed as 30% quality and 70% price.

This example could be improved by:

  • Involving people who use services and their carers to assess the quality of the current services (before taking the decision to combine them).
  • Undertaking local asset mapping activities with people who use services, their carers and provider organisations to provide information that can be used alongside the joint strategic needs assessment. This should include wider community assets as well as resources directly relevant to the planned service. This will enable potential providers to make most effective use of existing local resources.
  • Working with people, carers, commissioners and providers to identify what outcomes this service should deliver and developing this into a common framework.
  • Developing the new service specification with a focus on outcomes, without tightly specifying the activities and outputs that must be delivered. This enables people who use services and their carers to work with provider organisations to co-design the new service. It will also enable the service to reflect existing local assets and build on the skills and expertise of local people, carers and providers.