Should you care about commissioning?
Last week Public Health England launched a new publication, Making it work: a guide to whole system commissioning for sexual and reproductive health and HIV. This is a must-read guide for anyone involved in the commissioning of HIV services - and we immediately took to Facebook and Twitter to say as much.
But what if you aren’t a commissioner? What if you are living with HIV, or thinking about testing for HIV or, indeed, sitting in a waiting room of a sexual health clinic as you are reading this? Should you care about this document? In fact, should you care about commissioning of any kind, let alone the ‘whole system’ variety?
‘Commissioning’ is a term used in the NHS to describe the process of identifying the health and care needs of a population, deciding which services will meet these needs and purchasing these services from providers (most often the NHS, but also private companies, voluntary sector and community providers).
From the perspective of the person sitting in the clinic waiting room, it shouldn’t really matter what commissioners are doing, as long as the service meets their care needs. Like in The Wizard of Oz, perhaps you don’t want to pull back the curtain and see who is pulling the levers. And this is really what PHE’s ‘whole system approach’ should support: a seamless experience for everyone who needs to use HIV, sexual health and reproductive health services. NAT welcomes this endeavour and we hope that the new guide helps make this a reality across England.
But even if your healthcare experience goes smoothly, there are other reasons to care about commissioning. The top reason, in my opinion, is because you want to further improve the HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services available in your local area. Service user input is vital to planning these services and making them as relevant as possible to what you want - and the new(ish) approach to commissioning in England is all about encouraging this involvement.
If this is something you think you want to get involved with, you might want to read our resource, My Care My Voice, which explains who commissions your local services and how you can shape these services for the better. You can also join our HIV Activists Network, which campaigns about local healthcare provision, alongside many other issues relevant to HIV in the UK.