December 2020 | Page 10



Commissioning is struggling under relentless rounds of cuts . DDN hears about the need to collaborate to keep clients moving forward

There are many of us working in isolation with growing portfolios beyond drugs and alcohol .’ Niamh Cullen is giving her perspective of the challenges faced by commissioners . As a public health manager in Halifax , she is balancing the increased workload with ever-dwindling resources . ‘ It ’ s not the time to be fixed to service specs ,’ she says . ‘ We need to work in an agile way to adapt to continuous change .’

Cullen and her fellow commissioners in England are no strangers to the need to adapt . In 2013 , the NTA was merged into Public Health England and drug and alcohol budgets were transferred to local authorities , controlled by directors of public health . Since then , the landscape has shifted beyond recognition as services fight for survival and vie for priority . Commissioning with a ‘ client centric ’ approach has meant thinking creatively about ways to stay ahead of the countless challenges .
Many of the trusted partnerships have been dismantled through this period of change , she points out . Furthermore , a great deal of back office resources have had to be sacrificed to prevent further cuts in services . Cullen has joined a growing network of commissioners from different parts of the country who are trying to energise the commissioning process and harness mutual support .
Chris Lee , a public health specialist in Lancashire , is one of the enthusiasts behind this initiative and a founding member of The English Substance Use Commissioners Group ( ESUCG ), formed earlier this year as a forum for commissioners ( DDN , June , page 11 ). While the coronavirus pandemic has dominated most of the year , the idea behind the group will drive it beyond the immediate crisis . It ’ s a ‘ safe space ’, he says , ‘ to learn together and develop best practice for the years ahead , taking into account all that the sector and local government has been through in the last seven years or so .’
The lack of formal mandated structures has left commissioning fragile in some parts of the country ,
Photomontage : JellyPics