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Five ways to engage with CCGs


Your organisation has been dealing with a particular person or department in the PCT. You're now advised the CCG is your new point of contact, but your calls and emails are going unanswered. Sue McNulty looks at what you can do

The amount of time and paperwork involved in the authorisation process for CCGs should not be underestimated. A new board is probably in place and new officers appointed. In short, everyone is finding their feet and then there's the QIPP challenge, the setting up of a health and wellbeing board and the fact many CCG board members have day jobs as GPs.

To edge your organisation higher up the CCG agenda, here are a few things to try:

1/  Show you can provide solutions for the CCG

Organisations wishing to work with CCGs must start to see themselves as co-commissioners rather than simply providers.

NHS Alliance chair, Dr Mike Dixon, says: ‘If someone bellyaches about wanting more money for this or that – which is the old vernacular, then I'm afraid they won't get heard.

But if someone comes along and says "actually we have real expertise that you haven't. You might see these patients as GPs, but we see the patients in the round" then the CCGs will start listening to you - especially if you offer to help draw up a commissioning strategy. ‘

Mo Girach, special adviser to the NHS Alliance, agrees: ‘Social enterprises/voluntary organisations must develop not only service options for CCGs but pathway options that are creative and innovative.'

2/ Reflect the commissioning changes

Mr Girach says social enterprises/voluntary organisations must now demonstrate an awareness of the wider healthcare economy.

‘Excellent service provision is not always enough to guarantee future business' says Mr Girach. ‘Social enterprises/voluntary organisations need to demonstrate an awareness of the interactions between public health, primary, secondary and tertiary care. They also need to demonstrate they are mindful of the other influences on health status, such as education and benefit systems.'

The commissioning changes are taking place against a backdrop of reduced resources and increasing demand.

Rather than just looking at the usual health and social care services that have been commissioned in the past, Mr Girach says CCGs will be looking to work with organisations that can help patients do the following:

-          Live independently

-          Stay healthy and recover quickly from illness

-          Have as much control over their illness as possible

-          Live with their families

-          Have the best possible quality of life


3/  Look beyond the CCG

Redesigned services, new contracts and local innovations are not the sole craft of clinical commissioners. There are other key local players to make contact with, who have the ability to make things happen locally.

‘Commissioners only do so much' says NHS Alliance chief executive, Rick Stern ‘ Most of what happens, happens within provider organisations and it might well be the voluntary sector talking to other providers,  or the (main) provider organisation is more useful, more powerful and has more impact than talking to a commissioning organisation that's hard to get hold of. ‘

Be mindful also, that many CCG members themselves are involved in provision.

Pulse ran a story last year showing up to half of CCG board members are involved in provision and another  showing that one in 10 CCG board members were also board members of private firms.

Other portals to try are:

-          Local Medical Committees

-          Healthwatch

-          Health and wellbeing  board members, including local councillors


4. Power in numbers

Given the constraints on CCGs' time at the moment, it might be worth requesting a joint meeting with other local charities/social enterprises rather than seeking one-to-one meetings with the local CCG chair/accountable officer.

And jointly-signed letters can sometimes have more impact than a single piece of correspondence from one organisation.


5. Showcase what you do

Now is the time to demonsrate what your organisation helps the local NHS achieve.

What part does your organisation play in keeping waiting times down, reducing referrals and keeping pressure off local NHS services.

Familiarise yourself with the priorities of the CCG – read its strategy, the local Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and if you are not already doing so, start to measure the impact of what you do for the local NHS. Don't simply ask users of your service if they were pleased with what you did – ask them where else they would have gone for help if your service hadn't been there and if possible, cost this to show local commissioners how you are helping them achieve their objectives.


This article is based on a roundtable discussion jointly hosted last week by the NHS Alliance and ACEVO, the professional body for third sector chief executives.

The roundtable launched a report ‘A Clinical Commissioners Guide to the Voluntary Sector': Mo Girach, Holly Hardisty and Alex Massey

Sue McNulty is editor of Practical Commissioning magazine