Category Archives: Publications

Understanding Primary Care Co-Commissioning: Uptake, Development, and Impacts. Final report (March 2018)

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 gave the power and responsibility for commissioning health services and budgets to groups of GP practices called Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). CCGs will commission the great majority of NHS services for their patients but will not be directly responsible for commissioning services that GPs themselves provide. The responsibility for commissioning primary care services (medical, dental, eye health, and pharmacy) was given to a new statutory organisation called NHS England (NHSE), known as the NHS Commissioning Board in statute. This was to ensure a more standardised model and consistency in the management of the four groups.

In May 2014, following Simon Stevens appointment as the Chief Executive of NHS England, CCGs were delegated the responsibilities to commission primary care services. This was to enable better integrated care outside hospitals, ensure that primary, community and mental health are properly resourced, and CCGs having more influence over how funding is invested for local population, which would ensure sustainability of their local NHS. Co-commissioning would also enable the development of new models of care such as multispecialty community providers (MCPs) and primary and acute care systems (PACSs), as set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

This report presents the findings from a study following the development of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England. This is the third phase of the project, which aims to understand the ways in which CCGs are responding to their new primary care co-commissioning responsibilities from April 2015, providing feedback to NHSE supporting CCGs going through the approval process.

The study provides detailed evidence about the experiences of CCGs as they took on delegated responsibility for primary care commissioning. The study took place between May 2015 to June 2017. The strength of this study lies in the bringing together of evidence from senior policy makers as to the overall objectives for the policy with both telephone survey and case study evidence as to how it is playing out in practice. The specific research questions addressed in this report are:

  • What is the scope of co-commissioning activity and the process of change?
  • What approaches have been taken by CCGs to:
    • Develop governance structure to oversee primary care co-commissioning?
    • Commissioning and contracting?
    • Manage and develop the relationships between CCGs and their membership and between CCGs and external stakeholders?
    • Manage conflicts of interest?
  • What are the impacts and outcomes CCGs would expect from taking on delegated responsibility and claims of early successes?
  • What factors have affected CCGs’ progress and development?

Download report [pdf]>>

Download executive summary [pdf]>>

 

Planning and managing primary care services: lessons from the NHS in England

It is generally agreed that access to high-quality primary care is vital in the quest to provide the best possible health care at the lowest cost. Finding new ways to deliver and extend access to primary care services is of high priority in many health systems. The UK is no exception, and the past 30 years has seen a wide range of initiatives focused on primary care—particularly services provided by primary care physicians: GPs. Some initiatives have focused on payment models, altering contracts in an effort to change behaviour. Others have focused on the planning side, repeatedly enlarging, shrinking and reorganizing the organizations with responsibility for commissioning/purchasing primary care services on behalf of a population. In this paper we explore the latest of these policy and organizational changes, presenting the findings from an empirical study investigating recent changes to the commissioning of primary care services in England. Using an historical account of mechanisms to plan and manage GP services in England, we identify some of the issues involved. We explore the espoused logic underpinning the current reforms, and present early evidence about their implementation, highlighting the extent to which they may meet official aims and address the identified issues. The contribution offered is twofold:

  • First, we offer an account of the development of planning and management of GP services in England, bringing clarity to a complex field and providing valuable evidence for those responsible for overseeing primary care services in the UK and internationally.
  • Second, our exploration of the implementation of the latest round of reforms provides some lessons about the interplay between local, regional and national planning, and about the ways in which policy is made and implemented.

Read the paper >>

Next Steps in Commissioning through Competition and Cooperation (2016-2017)

In 2016 we reported our research on NHS commissioners’ and providers’ understandings and use the rules on competition, and our investigation of how commissioners used competitive and cooperative commissioning mechanisms at local level from 2013 to 2015. Since 2015, when the last phase of field work was undertaken, the legal framework governing the procurement of clinical services has not changed. The generally pro-competitive provisions of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (HSCA 2012) remain in force. In addition, the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR 2015) came into force in April 2016 introducing further requirements in respect of competitive procurement. Despite no substantive changes in the legislation governing procurement processes, since 2015 there has been a considerable national policy shift towards cooperative methods of commissioning.

Firstly, the ‘Five Year Forward View’ (5YFV) published by the NHS England (NHSE) in October 2014 instigated a number of the New Models of Care (NMC) vanguard sites. Many of these involved the merger or at least closer cooperation of a range of NHS organisations. This view was reinforced by the national planning guidance issued in late 2015 (Delivering the Forward View: NHS Planning Guidance 2016/17-2020/21). This document stated that the NHS should concentrate on local, placed based planning to be achieved by cooperation between local stakeholders. The plans were to be called ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’, and the groups of organisations were named ‘Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships’ (STPs). These cooperative modes of coordination were regarded as the preferable (and in fact, mandated) method by which health services would be planned and commissioned. Lastly, the notion of Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs) or Systems (ACSs) was introduced in 2017. These were seen as natural successors to STPs under which NHS organisations would either merge formally or work in close cooperation. In the light of these policy developments there was a need to investigate the way in which local commissioners and providers managed the interplay between cooperation and competition in commissioning clinical services.

The aims of this stage of the field work remained the same as those of the initial study. The project aimed to investigate how commissioners in local health systems managed the interplay of competition and cooperation in their local health economies, looking at acute and community health services (CHS).

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Primary care co-commissioning: challenges faced by clinical commissioning groups in England

The English Health and Social Care Act 2012 gave GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) responsibility for commissioning the majority of healthcare services for their registered population. However, responsibility for commissioning primary care services was given to a new national body, NHS England (NHSE), to avoid conflicts of interest and because of a perceived need for a standardised and consistent approach to commissioning. It soon became apparent that NHSE was struggling to move beyond a transactional approach to commissioning, focused on payments and contract management. When Simon Stevens took over as the Chief Executive of NHSE (April 2014), he advocated transferring responsibility for commissioning primary care services from NHSE to CCGs. Two years on, how have CCGs responded to their new responsibilities and what challenges do they face?

Read our debate and analysis paper published in the British Journal of General Practice >>

How are CCGs managing conflicts of interest under primary care co-commissioning in England? A qualitative analysis

Abstract

Objectives From April 2015, NHS England (NHSE) started to devolve responsibility for commissioning primary care services to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). The aim of this paper is to explore how CCGs are managing potential conflicts of interest associated with groups of GPs commissioning themselves or their practices to provide services.

Design We carried out two telephone surveys using a sample of CCGs. We also used a qualitative case study approach and collected data using interviews and meeting observations in four sites (CCGs).

Setting/participants We conducted 57 telephone interviews and 42 face-to-face interviews with general practitioners (GPs) and CCG staff involved in primary care co-commissioning and observed 74 meetings of CCG committees responsible for primary care co-commissioning.

Results Conflicts of interest were seen as an inevitable consequence of CCGs commissioning primary care. Particular problems arose with obtaining unbiased clinical input for new incentive schemes and providing support to GP provider federations. Participants in meetings concerning primary care co-commissioning declared conflicts of interest at the outset of meetings. Different approaches were pursued regarding GPs involvement in subsequent discussions and decisions with inconsistency in the exclusion of GPs from meetings. CCG senior management felt confident that the new governance structures and policies dealt adequately with conflicts of interest, but we found these arrangements face limitations. While the revised NHSE statutory guidance on managing conflicts of interest (2016) was seen as an improvement on the original (2014), there still remained some confusion over various terms and concepts contained therein.

Conclusions Devolving responsibility for primary care co-commissioning to CCGs created a structural conflict of interest. The NHSE statutory guidance should be refined and clarified so that CCGs can properly manage conflicts of interest. Non-clinician members of committees involved in commissioning primary care require training in order to make decisions requiring clinical input in the absence of GPs.

Read the BMJ Open article >>

Read the blog>>

Inside the mindset of NHS managers

To find out if NHS culture is changing, our research  investigated the views of managers about competition in the NHS after the enactment of the HSCA 2012 to examine the extent to which marketisation has become an internalised feature of NHS commissioning practices, and explore how far this is actually changing the NHS in any fundamental way. We found that managers remain committed to collaboration, but pockets of competitive thinking are present.

Read Pauline Allen’s blog on LSE Business Review>>

Commissioning through competition and cooperation in the English NHS under the Health and Social Care Act 2012: evidence from a qualitative study of four clinical commissioning groups

Abstract

Objective The Health and Social Care Act 2012 (‘HSCA 2012’) introduced a new, statutory, form of regulation of competition into the National Health Service (NHS), while at the same time recognising that cooperation was necessary. NHS England’s policy document, The Five Year Forward View (‘5YFV’) of 2014 placed less emphasis on competition without altering the legislation. We explored how commissioners and providers understand the complex regulatory framework, and how they behave in relation to competition and cooperation.

Design We carried out detailed case studies in four clinical commissioning groups, using interviews and documentary analysis to explore the commissioners’ and providers’ understanding and experience of competition and cooperation.

Setting/participants We conducted 42 interviews with senior managers in commissioning organisations and senior managers in NHS and independent provider organisations (acute and community services).

Results Neither commissioners nor providers fully understand the regulatory regime in respect of competition in the NHS, and have not found that the regulatory authorities have provided adequate guidance. Despite the HSCA 2012 promoting competition, commissioners chose mainly to use collaborative strategies to effect major service reconfigurations, which is endorsed as a suitable approach by providers. Nevertheless, commissioners are using competitive tendering in respect of more peripheral services in order to improve quality of care and value for money.

Conclusions Commissioners regard the use of competition and cooperation as appropriate in the NHS currently, although collaborative strategies appear more helpful in respect of large-scale changes. However, the current regulatory framework contained in the HSCA 2012, particularly since the publication of the 5YFV, is not clear. Better guidance should be issued by the regulatory authorities.

Link to the BMJ Open article>>

PRUComm Research Review 2017

This is our fifth annual review of research and provides a brief overview of our research activities. Following confirmation last year of our extension until the end of 2018 we have now agreed a programme of work with the Department. This sees a stronger shift towards exploring the impact of system changes on commissioning. The introduction of Sustainability and Transformation Plans and new metapractice organisations creates a rapidly shifting landscape for the commissioning and delivery of healthcare in England.

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Commissioning for health improvement following the 2012 health and social care reforms in England: what has changed?

Abstract

Background

The wide-ranging program of reforms brought about by the Health and Social Care Act (2012) in England fundamentally changed the operation of the public health system, moving responsibility for the commissioning and delivery of services from the National Health Service to locally elected councils and a new national public health agency. This paper explores the ways in which the reforms have altered public health commissioning.

Methods

We conducted multi-methods research over 33 months, incorporating national surveys of Directors of Public Health and local council elected members at two time-points, and in-depth case studies in five purposively selected geographical areas.

Results

Public health commissioning responsibilities have changed and become more fragmented, being split amongst a range of different organisations, most of which were newly created in 2013. There is much change in the way public health commissioning is done, in who is doing it, and in what is commissioned, since the reforms. There is wider consultation on decisions in the local council setting than in the NHS, and elected members now have a strong influence on public health prioritisation. There is more (and different) scrutiny being applied to public health contracts, and most councils have embarked on wide-ranging changes to the health improvement services they commission. Public health money is being used in different ways as councils are adapting to increasing financial constraint.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that, while some of the intended opportunities to improve population health and create a more joined-up system with clearer leadership have been achieved, fragmentation, dispersed decision-making and uncertainties regarding funding remain significant challenges. There have been profound changes in commissioning processes, with consequences for what health improvement services are ultimately commissioned. Time (and further research) will tell if any of these changes lead to improved population health outcomes and reduced health inequalities, but many of the opportunities brought about by the reforms are threatened by the continued flux in the system.

Link to the article [BMC open access] >>

Review of the Quality and Outcomes Framework in England

The Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), an incentive scheme in general practice, was introduced across the UK in 2004 to link payment to delivery of primary medical care. Drivers for its introduction included the recognition that there were variations between general practices in the quality of care and the need to increase investment to improve morale and recruitment in primary care. QOF, in the early years, led to a reduction in inequalities in delivery of those aspects of care that it incentivised. Currently, there is little variation in QOF achievement between practices – most derive maximum, or near maximum income from it.

The QOF had other effects, encouraging nurse-led multidisciplinary management of chronic disease to deliver incentivised services, and better practice computerisation, so that delivery could be recorded. However, the extent to which high QOF achievement means a higher quality service in general practice is not clear. Quality in primary care is difficult to define, but it certainly encompasses more than is measured by QOF. It is now explicit NHS policy to improve other aspects of primary care – in particular, to deliver better integrated, holistic and patient-centred care and more effective primary prevention in primary care. Whether QOF can deliver these policies has been questioned, as have its role in reducing inequalities and its ability to deliver better population health.

NHS England commissioned the Centre for Health Services Studies at the University of Kent, on behalf of the Policy Research Unit in Commissioning and the Healthcare System (PRUComm), to review the evidence of effectiveness of QOF in the context of a changing policy landscape. We examined the most recent evidence that QOF influences behaviour in general practice and health outcomes, taking a broad view of primary care quality. We also considered the evidence that QOF helps sustain changes in primary care and effects of withdrawing QOF indicators using recent patterns of QOF achievement and the published literature.

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