Fiona Sheil recently joined Bexley as our strategic lead for commissioning and market making. At the latest Future Forum session, she shared some thoughts on the roles of commissioners in the councils of the future.
Commissioners operate at different levels. From the strategic commissioner – setting our overall aims for an area of delivery, like youth services; to the operational commissioner – managing the process of commissioning, like the needs assessment; to the individual commissioner – purchasing services on behalf of an individual, like a fostering placement. They’re extremely important people as each year commissioners spend 70% of our budget on services delivered externally.
Commissioning is an accountable, evidence-led process of making our resources meet our needs. Extending beyond just buying things, the commissioning cycle encompasses four stages. Firstly, planning and analysing the problem we’re trying to solve. Next, designing ways to deliver services to address that need. Next, specifying what we want to buy and procuring it; and finally monitoring and improving the service during delivery. It’s a cycle that we continue round in an ongoing process, reviewing and revisiting each stage regularly.
Therefore we want our commissioners to be more than just contract managers. They’re also advocates, visionaries and asset builders. Internally they can offer challenge and support to ensure our services are designed well, whilst externally they may steward resources from other parts of the system towards our shared goals. They’re a key part of our drive to become more outcomes focused, ensuring that the services we provide are delivering real value to our residents and continue to improve and change.
Over the next 12 months, Fiona will be leading a commissioning transformation programme to create a new model of commissioning in Bexley, with clear principles and governance. We also want to make sure commissioners have the support and tools they need to work effectively. The programme will be co-designed with the staff currently involved in commissioning, to reflect their needs and experience.
If you’d like to know more, please get in touch with Fiona Sheil.