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The journey to evidence informed commissioning decisions

Tuesday 3rd April 2018

The journey to evidence informed commissioning decisions

By Shona Haining – NECS Head of Research & Evidence

Commissioners need to deliver more radical service transformation against a backdrop of tighter finances and increasingly complex population needs. At the same time, commissioners are producing challenging Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) projects and are undertaking more difficult decisions about what to commission and decommission.

The use of robust external evidence from research and other sources is becoming even more important, so the timeliness of the NIHR Dissemination Centre’s helpful Highlight is most welcome.

Joint working

Who is on the journey with commissioners to bring, critique and push this evidence so it is more visible and better used? The last major NHS reconfiguration resulted in public health staff moving into local authorities and library services moving into the acute sector.

Although staff and decision-makers in public health and the NHS do undertake joint work and sit together on relevant committees, they don’t share the same physical space. This distance from one another limits integral approaches, informal relationships, conversations and understanding.

Forward thinking individuals and approaches need to consider how the expertise and knowledge of public health and information services staff can be more joined up with commissioning and Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) decision-makers.

In addition, at system level (mainly in NHS providers), there is a wealth of expertise in the librarian’s workforce. Health Education England are positively supporting staff development  of these professionals, with a recent policy aiming to ‘develop NHS librarians and knowledge specialists to use their expertise to mobilise evidence obtained from research and organisational knowledge to underpin decision-making in the National Health Service in England’. This brings a timely opportunity for these professions to add value in the system to support evidence decision-making.

Evidence mobilisation

In the North East and Cumbria, key individuals with a shared vision of mobilising knowledge, aligning skills and avoiding duplications across a system are taking the first steps on this journey. They represent the North of England Commissioning Support Unit (NECS), NHS Librarians and sectors of public health who, together with colleagues, have formed a Sustainability and Transformation Evidence Mobilisation (STEM) club.

By working with the leaders and STP priority themes, they are actively linking into the conversations, making the evidence components more visible, supporting the finding of relevant evidence and plan to produce this in a way that is useful and usable. It is early days, but everyone recognises this is a journey with difficult questions along the way.

It has become clear that conversations are at the centre of successful relationships. We are all keen to keep the conversations about research evidence going, acknowledging their importance to transforming care and, ultimately, to arriving at a destination of evidence informed commissioning decisions.

Related sites

How commissioners use research evidence