Clarity, communication and reciporocity: key ingredients for productive relationships with voluntary organisations in the new health and social care commissioning environment

Briefing paper 105

July 2013

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 is effecting major changes in the way in which NHS and public health services are commissioned and organised in the UK. April 2013 saw the country’s 152 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) being replaced by 211 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), 152 Health and Wellbeing Boards and local Healthwatch organisations.

This report is based on an evaluation of a pilot project commissioned by Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG to develop positive relationships between voluntary sector organisations, the Clinical Commissioning Group and General Practitioners. Two local voluntary sector infrastructure organisations were commissioned to deliver the project.

The evaluation demonstrates the need for intermediaries to broker effective relationships between these groups. The project identified misconceptions amongst GPs about the professionalism of many voluntary organisations, and highlighted that GP’s and commissioners need greater clarity about what the voluntary sector can offer for patient outcomes. The voluntary sector also needs greater clarity about the opportunities available and how these will be funded and commissioned.

The evaluation notes that communication must be well targeted, and intermediaries must be able to command the respect of clinicians and understand their operating environment. It also highlights the need for reciprocity in terms of funding and dialogue. It is important that commissioners do not expect voluntary organisations to provide free services.

A significant investment of time and resources is needed to build effective relationships. The research suggests that CCGs would be wise to invest in programmes to assist voluntary organisations with the transition into the new commissioning environment.

Research contact:
Heather Buckingham