‘Commissioning Assurance’ – Department of Health reinvents ‘controls assurance’ for PCTs

The Department of Health has published its Commissioning Assurance Handbook as part of its World Class commissioning initiative. World class commissioning is about delivering better health and wellbeing for the population, improving health outcomes and reducing health inequalities. In partnership with local government, practice based commissioners and others, Primary Care Trusts (PCTs),supported by Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs), will lead the NHS in turning the world class commissioning vision into a reality, adding life to years and years to life.

The approach being adopted for Commissioning Assurance is highly reminiscent of the Department of Health’s former Controls Assurance process for the NHS. Commissioning assurance will hold Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to account and will reward performance and development as they move towards so-called ‘world class’. The definition of ‘world class’ will, apparently, continuously evolve, and commissioning assurance will develop in response.

There are three elements of commissioning assurance: outcomes, competencies and governance. Outcomes reflect the overall improvement in the health and well-being of the population. Competencies reflect improvements in the PCT’s skills and behaviours as commissioners. Governance reflects the underlying grip that the Board and the organisation have on their core business. In addition the assessment will review the PCT’s potential for improvement.

The DH says there will be one nationally consistent commissioning assurance system managed by the Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs). As set out in the Operating Framework 2008/09, commissioning assurance applies to all SHAs and PCTs. Within the established annual cycle it will be a consistent assurance system to review PCT progress towards world class performance and achievement of better health outcomes and provide a common basis for agreeing further development. Nationally consistent methodology will, according to the DH, enable reliable comparison of performance across all PCTs.

TheCommissioning Assurance Handbook contains further information and can be downloaded here.

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