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Commissioning for better health outcomes

Councils were given responsibility for public health in April 2013. The initial focus was on ensuring a safe transition of staff, services and contracts – and getting these into good shape. Now, three years on, many councils are moving to a phase of transformation with health being embedded in everything the council does, including its commissioning.

Investing in prevention and better health outcomes can be part of the solution to the challenges of increasing levels of need along with shrinking budgets. Effective preventative interventions can reduce health and social care costs and the need for welfare benefits. Better health can also enhance resilience, employment and social outcomes.

The financial climate for councils and their partners is becoming increasingly tough, making it ever more important to get the best outcomes from the scarce resources available. Effective commissioning is one of the levers that councils can use to make the most of the resources they and their partners have.

This guidance is based around a set of principles that make for good commissioning. These were developed from a scoping workshop with public health and procurement staff, consultation with delegates at the Local Government Association (LGA) and Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) conference and from the lessons emerging from the case studies included in this report.

The case studies have been chosen to illustrate positive approaches to commissioning being taken across the country to address a wide range of public health challenges.

Common to all of the examples was the enthusiasm for working in the council environment, the opportunities it had brought to make better links between programmes and the mutual respect that had been built up between colleagues from different professional backgrounds. Many also pointed to the value of political leadership of the health agenda and the critical role elected members played in ensuring momentum in difficult times.