Viewpoint - Importance of learning by doing

Build a real-life commissioning programme into your development plans in 2012, says Georgina Craig.

Georgina Craig: 'The benefit of real life commissioning is that we can now talk credibly and present a compelling case study when the time comes'

By January 2012, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) need development plans in place. In many ways, it's a blank canvas. CCG management budgets will be tiny compared with PCTs so we need to think outside the box and find new approaches to commissioning.

At Healthworks CCG in Birmingham we have used the past six months to learn by doing commissioning.

With practices spanning two PCT clusters and two local authorities, we could have wasted hours in meetings, working out the theory of collaboration. Instead, we got on with it and used end-of-life care as a reason to engage and think through how we will manage the business of commissioning differently.

Using a lean 'task and finish' approach and a series of co-design events, we have developed a strategy with local people and front-line clinicians that determines how we all want end-of-life care to be in three years' time.

Strengths and weaknesses
Supported by two clinical champions, our programme manager has worked closely with our lead PCT cluster to collate the necessary public health and commissioning data. This has quickly identified the strengths and the weaknesses in the system to be managed in the future. Our person-centred approach has more than delivered requirements to involve people and a broad church of clinicians. And we know we can replicate the process and apply it to future commissioning challenges.

To achieve early authorisation, we must prove competence. The benefit of delivering this piece of real-life commissioning is that we can now talk credibly and present a compelling case study when the time comes. To make the case for continued working in our current cluster configuration, this has been critical. Our current boundaries could otherwise have worked against us.

As we were already gathering feedback to help us to learn what works and to audit the time it has taken to deliver the strategy, it is an added bonus that authorisation is going to do the same. We can already guess what people will say - and so far it's a really great story.

Moving forward, and having learnt so much, it is hard to imagine how we could be where we are today without 'learning by doing' commissioning.

Our advice; build a real-life commissioning programme into your development plans in 2012. That way, you will be absolutely sure that your proposed CCG form really is fit for its new function.

To find out more details about Healthworks' approach to commissioning, go to:

  • Georgina Craig is a member of the NHS Alliance executive and Healthworks lead for experience-led care.

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