Good practice in Wessex

Supporting patient and carer involvement in commissioning in the Wessex area

Wessex Voices NHS England, Wessex Strategic Clinical Network, local Healthwatch and voluntary sector partners are working together to support patients and carers to understand and influence the commissioning system, including primary care.


NHS England wanted to work with partners including local Healthwatch and the voluntary sector in the Wessex area to develop a way to involve patients and carers in the commissioning of health services.

 Overview of public involvement activity

  • Wessex Healthwatch Partnership and the voluntary and community sector were involved in developing the programme.
  • It includes a training and support programme for patients and carers to develop their understanding of commissioning processes. It facilitates their participation through briefings, support with travel etc.
  • A guide, or toolkit, on public and patient engagement in commissioning has been produced for staff, ‘Choosing and Buying Services Together ‘, includes examples of how the public can be involved at each stage of the commissioning cycle; participation techniques and methods; information on the role of Healthwatch and the voluntary sector; and an outline training plan for patients and carers to support their involvement in commissioning.
  • The Wessex Healthwatch Partnership hosts a Patient and Public Engagement and a Commissioning Coordinator who maintains a network of people able to contribute to commissioning work programmes. They support training, engagement with seldom-heard individuals and groups, and provide independent evaluation of public consultations.

Who carried out the activity? 

NHS England Wessex team, working with the Wessex Strategic Clinical Network, five local Healthwatch, RAISE (a regional voluntary sector network) and Patient and Public Involvement Solutions (a specialist consultancy).

What difference has the activity made?

  • Trained patient representatives have played a key role in the recent re-procurement of primary care services in Basingstoke and Southampton.
  • Around 50 members of the public have been trained to date, with plans for a further 75-100 in 2016/17.
  • 12 staff in Wessex have been trained in the toolkit and how to involve the public effectively in commissioning.
  • A positive impact has been to get patients from different GP practices more involved in the commissioning process.
  • We continue to review how the patient representative voice is reflected in scoring bidder submissions as part of the procurement process. Particular consideration will be given to the way weight is assigned to each section which patient representatives are scoring and moderating.

What, if anything, would you have done differently?

  • Improve understanding of patient and public engagement internally. Primary care colleagues were hesitant to respond, perhaps nervous about the process and rationale for involving patients. This is a new process for some staff and patients.
  • More discussion in advance of commissioning meetings to ensure realistic patient and staff expectations of the commissioning outcomes.
  • Deliver training as early as possible so that participants develop a clear understanding of processes such as procurement.
  • Plan in more time to manage complex partnerships and bringing organisations together.

Who should we contact for more information?

Nicky Priest – NHS England South Region, Wessex team and Jessie Cunnett – Patient and Public Involvement Solutions.

How were people told about the difference their participation had made?

Members of the public in the network are being kept informed about local participation opportunities and outcomes by the Healthwatch coordinator, a post hosted by ‘Community Voices’.