DDN November 2022 DDN Nov_2022 | Page 12



In the second of our threepart commissioning series we look at creating effective operating partnerships between commissioners , providers and people with lived experience

In the wake of Dame Carol Black ’ s landmark Independent review of drugs , the government announced almost £ 800m of new funding to rebuild and revitalise the country ’ s ailing treatment system . But for the money to genuinely transform the treatment on offer the right commissioning structure needs to be in place .

In part one of this series we surveyed the commissioning landscape after years of budget cuts ( DDN , October , page 12 ), and in part two we look at how the sector goes about creating genuine partnerships between commissioners , service providers and – crucially – people with lived experience .
The Carol Black review set out how people with lived experience would need to be central to any treatment system that met the needs of those depending on it , while the new Commissioning Quality Standard ( CQS ) says that local areas will know they ’ re achieving the desired level for strategic and commissioning partnership when people with lived experience are included in their partnership structures . But how close are we to achieving that ?
‘ It ’ s for commissioners and providers to work in collaboration to create the fertile ground for that to happen , and make sure it ’ s not tokenistic ,’ says operations manager at WDP , Craig Middleton . ‘ You don ’ t want it to be “ we ’ ve ticked that box , we can move on now ” – it ’ s about how we actually make this work authentically . It ’ s not easy to do well , but it ’ s not impossible .’ This means getting ‘ all the right people in the room ’ and having strong co-production elements with commissioners , service users and providers , he says .
DOING IT TOGETHER Effective commissioning is always a relationship , stresses joint commissioning manager at Cornwall Council , Kim Hager . ‘ Some people see it as a transactional , top down / directional approach , and transactional approaches don ’ t deliver . We have to do it together . And it ’ s not just service users and experts by experience – the bit that gets missed out is families and communities . It ’ s really important that they ’ re part of that . We need to stop seeing drugs and alcohol problems as happening in isolation because by the time you ’ ve developed problematic use , you ’ ve accumulated a bunch of other problems like offending , housing , mental health .’
With some bid processes the involvement of service users is explicit , says executive director of development at WDP , Graham Howard . ‘ It will tell you the name of the group that ’ s been involved , how they ’ ve done it , and there ’ ll be an element of the bid where they ’ ve set a question , or you go to a presentation and there ’ s a service user panel there . It ’ s clear that it ’ s happening .’
However , consultations with service users to create a needs assessment or specification can often be followed by confusion around how they ’ re actually going to be included in the process . ‘ Bidders may be informed that service users are on the marking panel or something like that , but unless it ’ s black and white in the bid – or you go to a presentation and you ’ re presenting to service users – it can be hard to know what their levels of involvement are .’
WHAT IS GOOD PRACTICE ? So what does genuine good practice look like when it comes to involving people with lived experience ?
‘ One tender I was involved in recently was excellent ,’ says vorDa / iStock