Making a difference: A career in commissioning

“If someone had told me at 16 I was going to be a commissioning manager, I wouldn't have known what this was. I absolutely think that this is the most interesting area of work I've EVER worked in”.

Susan Carter, Commissioning Manager at Hertfordshire County Council.

Commissioning is the process that public bodies, including local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups and other NHS services, use to plan and deliver social care services.

A commissioner reviews the sorts of services that are needed by the people who live in the local area, and then makes sure that those services are available and appropriate for example, lunch clubs for people living with dementia, day centres and transport services.

They also have to balance quality and value for money with what local people want to achieve in their daily lives. 

How can I get into commissioning?

There is no fixed path into commissioning. Some staff have joined a graduate management scheme and others just applied as a result of seeing an advertisement. You don’t need a background in commissioning but transferrable skills and some knowledge will go a long way.

"I come from a finance background and I moved into a social services department as an assistant director/resources role and had an opportunity to watch the commissioning team for a while and found it really interesting."

Sarah Pickup, Deputy Chief Executive, Local Government Association.

"I've had a varied career background and I wanted to do something that felt closer to the frontline. I joined the Graduate Training programme and moved around all different teams first before settling into my commissioning role."

Tim Napper, Commissioning Manager, Hertfordshire County Council.

A day in the life of a commissioner

We asked commissioners to tell us what they do on a day to day basis and they told us “No two days are the same”.  

We’ve interviewed four commissioners at different levels of authority to share their views and thoughts of what their job entails, how they got into it and what drives them. You can watch those videos here and read their stories in our guide.

What skills will I need?

Effective commissioners combine problem-solving, innovation and resourcefulness with empathy for the rights and wellbeing of the local population they are commissioning services for, often finding creative solutions to complex challenges. There is a full list of things you’ll need in our guide.

"You need to be able to negotiate, you need to be able to build relationships, you need to have ideas, you also have to accept ideas of others, you need to be flexible, think about procurement, partners and enabling things.” 

Sarah Pickup, Deputy Chief Executive at Local Government Association.

What you need to know

Sometimes it can be tough and may have to make cuts or reduce services but most of the time you’ll be changing or improving the service provision, which can be rewarding and satisfying.

"If someone is considering commissioning - you make a huge difference, you learn a lot, it's been a great career move. I've picked up loads in the last year and you actually get to be on the ground and see people using a service so you know you've made a difference.”

Tom Johnson, Commissioning Officer at Hertfordshire County Council.

A real example – Westgate House

Commissioners work in partnership with social care organisations to deliver good care.  One example is Westgate House in Ealing.

"We worked with our commissioner and refurbished and improved the physical environment to make it much more beneficial for people to live here"

Sarah Livadeas, Strategy Director at The Orders of St John Care Trust tells us in a video interview.

More information

If you’d like to watch any of these film interviews or access our resource which explains how to get into commissioning in more detail, visit our webpage: www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Topics/Commissioners/Careers-in-commissioning.aspx.