Commissioning [Integrated] Care in England: An Analysis of the Current Decision Context
Gongora-Salazar P., Glogowska M., Fitzpatrick R., Perera R., Tsiachristas A.
Background: The emergence of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) across England poses an additional challenge and responsibility for local commissioners to accelerate the implementation of integrated care programmes and improve the overall efficiency across the system. To do this, ICS healthcare commissioners could learn from the experience of the former local commissioning structures and identify areas of improvement in the commissioning process. This study describes the investment decision process in integrated care amid the transition toward ICSs, highlights challenges, and provides recommendations to inform ICSs in their healthcare commissioning role. Methods: Twenty-six semi-structured interviews were conducted with local commissioners and other relevant stakeholders in South East England in 2021. Interviews were supplemented with literature. Results: England’s local healthcare commissioning has made the transition towards a new organisational architecture, with some integrated care programmes running, and a dual top-down and bottom-up prioritisation process in place. The commissioning and consequent development of integrated care programmes have been hindered by various barriers, including difficulties in accessing and using information, operational challenges, and resource constraints. Investment decisions have mainly been driven by national directives and budget considerations, with a mixture of subjective and objective approaches. A systematic and data-driven framework could replace this ad-hoc prioritisation of integrated care and contribute to a more rational and transparent commissioning process. Conclusion: The emerging ICSs seem to open an opportunity for local commissioners to strengthen the commissioning process of integrated care with evidence-based priority-setting approaches similar to the well-established health technology assessment framework at the national level.