Strategic Commissioning

Strategic commissioning is about planning and delivering services and supports for people in a new way.  It sits at the core of how Integration Authorities ‘do business’ in an integrated world and is the term used for all the activities involved in:

• Assessing and forecasting needs,
• Linking investment to agreed desired outcomes,
• Considering options,
• Planning the nature, range and quality of future services and
• Working in partnership to put these in place.

Commissioning is commonly described as a cycle of strategic activities as shown below:


The Commissioning cycle (the outer circle) drives Purchasing and Contracting activities (the inner circle), and these in turn inform the ongoing development of Strategic Commissioning.

Commissioning involves establishing the strategy, defining outcomes and identifying the resources to achieve the outcomes.

Procurement is a specific function within the commissioning cycle that focuses on the process of buying or otherwise securing services, from initial advertising through to appropriate contract arrangements. i.e. commissioning looks at “what do we want”, procurement at “how do we get it”.

Commissioning for Outcomes requires commissioners to make the change from specifying contracts on the basis of services to be provided, to outcomes to be achieved. The funding awarded not in terms of outputs achieved or processes to be followed but what outcomes might be expected.

Where to Get Support

The Improvement Hub (ihub), based at Healthcare Improvement Scotland, are currently developing a detailed programme of support around strategic commissioning. This work is expected to be completed by the end of the year – we will provide more information as soon as it is available.

Providers and Personalisation is a specialist programme based at the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS). It is a Scottish Government funded policy and practice change programme supporting voluntary sector support providers with preparing for and showcasing good practice on the journey to Self-directed Support. Although Self-directed Support is the main focus of their work, many of their resources, and much of the support they offer is directly linked to strategic commissioning and enabling the sector’s contribution to the process.

In December 2014 the Scottish Government produced guidance to support Integration Authorities to develop their Strategic Plans. Although the guidance relates to the plans a significant proportion of the content relates directly to strategic commissioning. Strategic commissioning is also covered in the Team’s summary of the content.

The Scottish Social Services Council learning zone has a useful web based comprehensive learning resource which will support learning by placing strategic commissioning within the national policy context, defining strategic commissioning and explaining the importance of the process.

The Scottish Government recently published a review of the strategic commissioning plans. This provides an overview of the content and approach of the plans, and identifies common themes and key areas for further development, much of which relates to strategic commissioning. The team are currently working on producing a summary of this review which should be published shortly.

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