A National Commissioning Board for Health and Social Care in Wales

January 2015

Western Mail article January 2015

Health and social care services aim to help people lead as independent a life as possible. This ranges from supporting people to take part in social activities, help with basic personal care through to maximum support for every aspect of daily life. Many people and their families are increasingly dependent, for support, on social and health care and these numbers will increase. The many people working in social care provide a vital service which is highly valued by users and carers.

Councils have a duty to provide social care for those who need it, whether directly, contracted out with a voluntary and private organisations or by giving people a budget to arrange their own care. Helping people to live more independently and improve their quality of life is not just the role of councils, it requires a joined-up approach with other councils, as well as with NHS and other public services.

The current and forthcoming challenges facing Health and Social Care Services are well documented. Increasing demand for services, tighter financial constraints together with the need to recruit and retain quality staff will require us to think and work in a very different way.

Commissioning social care is much more than councils organising and buying services. It is about how councils, the NHS and other providers anticipate change, plan services to meet future demands and make effective use of the money available.

Commissioners of services throughout social and health care are currently wrestling with the challenges of commissioning quality services at a time when budgets are reducing in real terms. Likewise providers of services face the challenge of recruiting and retaining staff when they face considerable uncertainty with regard to on going funding.

Despite these challenges, considerable progress is being made across Wales in securing services that achieve the outcomes desired by individuals in a way that maximises independence and reduces dependency on traditional services.

A new National Commissioning Board has been set up to promote best practice in commissioning and procurement for health, care and well-being throughout Wales.

The Board will have representatives from local government, health boards, Welsh Government and provider organisations. It will increasingly play a central role in building the vision and setting the direction for sustainable services.

The Social Services and Well-being Act will require commissioners and providers to think differently. The reduction in funding for social care services will mean that current practices are not sustainable and will need to change quickly if servicers are to continue to be delivered in a way which protects the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in Wales.

The Board will advise on the resources required to deliver effective, sustainable health, social care and well-being services. It will also support the delivery of national and local government priorities, of the new Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the forthcoming Regulation and Inspection Act.

The National Commissioning Board will be supported by a National Provider Forum, with participants drawn from the independent and voluntary sector. The Forum will have a key role in helping to identify the challenges and barriers to effective service delivery from the perspective of providers of care.

The Board has seven broad priorities for 2015:

  • Developing a formal agreement between commissioners and providers covering ongoing working relationships.
  • Delivering integrated commissioning between health and social care.
  • Drafting model contracts between commissioners and provider to improve consistency of practice across Wales
  • Translating the aspirations of the Social Services and Well-being Act into new service design and service delivery.
  • Helping to identify the workforce skills and competencies necessary to deliver new models of support and care
  • Development of a framework for scoping the commissioning capacity needed for different markets and populations
  • Understanding the market risks across the social care sectors.

The work of the National Commissioning Board will be key in ensuring that the complex challenges posed by an increasingly older population and financial austerity can be met by ensuring services are commissioned throughout Wales in a consistent manner.

Dave Street, Corporate Director Social Services
Caerphilly County Borough Council