News and Comment

OPM helps Lincolnshire County Council to lead the way to becoming a commissioning council

Monday 16 June 2014


A team from OPM have been working with Lincolnshire County Council on commissioning skills and lead consultant Judith Smyth has written this joint blog with LCC colleagues.

Over 200 people at Lincolnshire County Council have completed the first round of 30 development days delivered by OPM, this included managers, elected members and commissioning support officers which supports the establishment of Lincolnshire as a leading commissioning council. Lincolnshire’s commissioning policy is at heart to ‘right source’. That means making decisions about the right delivery channel based on evidence of what will work best to improve outcomes for citizens and service users and on a robust analysis of the market.

Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) produced a very impressive toolkit in four sections to describe the standard phases of commissioning – Analyse, Plan, Do, Review. OPM worked with LCC to co-design a bespoke development programme around the toolkit. Both are frontloaded with an emphasis on Analyse so that participants in the programme understand the critical importance of the agreement at the end of the Analysis phase of a robust and credible commissioning strategy. This lays solid foundations for the agreement of detailed requirements specification and plans for any chosen delivery channels (which may include insourcing, influence and partnership, outsourcing or in-house local authority provision). The third  phase ‘Do’ is about effective ‘contracting/service redesign’ and, when needed, sound procurement. The Review phase aims to establish a consistent, effective approach to outcome focused performance review at both population/systems and service/service user levels.

During the programme we built on existing local expertise and Lincolnshire examples of effective commissioning including Lincolnshire’s Energy from Waste plant, the Highways Alliance and recent procurement of a new support services contract. We also used examples from Children’s and Adult services, Public Health and Community Safety.

In the last year Tony McArdle, Lincolnshire’s chief executive, has worked with the leader of the council, elected members in the executive and the senior manager cohort to make the commissioning approach a reality. This is set to be the operating model for all council business, governance and decision making. This means that scrutiny, financial review and budget setting, council structure, HR policy and the development of more integrated working with the NHS are all being aligned. The next step in the journey is to start a phased programme of work to develop the 17 agreed commissioning strategies that cover all Lincolnshire County Council’s activities.

Judith Smyth, who worked closely with Hilary Thompson, OPM’s chief executive to design, lead and deliver the development programme, says that “it has been a privilege to be working with the Lincolnshire team and using such a good toolkit. OPM likes nothing better than to work with a well-led and exacting client who shares our ambition to embed effective commissioning to drive efficiency and improve outcomes for citizens and service users. This is a challenging change programme. We are proud to have been part of the team at the outset”.