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Involving service users and carers in mental health procurement

In 2013 we started an engagement process with our Commissioning partners that would transform local mental health and learning disability services.

Throughout the process we engaged extensively with patients, service users, carers, GPs, providers, voluntary organisations and other partners – they helped us to understand what worked well, what needed to be improved and what needed to be changed all together.

As a result of the feedback we received through our engagement activities, we designed a model that really did put patients at the centre and developed a service specification which included the outcomes which service users and their families had told us were important to them.

We wanted to continue to involve service users and carers during the procurement process so formed independent stakeholder panels to meet and ask the shortlisted organisations questions relating to patient experience. The responses given by the shortlisted organisations were marked by the panel members and the moderated scores added to other scores awarded during the complex scoring process.

The panel sessions were organised so that they were equitable, transparent and conducted in line with procurement legislation. All panel members attended a bespoke training session to prepare them for their role, providing them with skills they might need on the day, information about how the tender process worked and time to develop the questions they wanted to ask the providers and agree as a panel what a good response might look like.

This was one of the largest mental health procurements in the country and we believe that this is the first time whole panels of service users and carers have been given the opportunity to play such a significant role in such a process. We’re very proud of what we achieved in the knowledge that service users and carers really were given a voice.

In March 2016 we were awarded runner-up in the PEN National Awards 2015 in the category of Commissioning for Patient Experience for this pioneering project.  For further information, please click here



We have made a short film which features some of the people involved talking about why they volunteered to get involved and how they feel they influenced the outcome. We have also produced a report which details the process we followed and includes our key learning points and thee feedback we received from the service users and carers who participated in the panels.  

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