“The service specifications are one of the most important parts of the contract, as they describe the services being commissioned and can, therefore, be used to hold the provider to account for the delivery of the services, as specified.”

NHS Standard Contract Technical Guidance, s36.1

Given the above statement, it never ceases to amaze us how many important services are commissioned under the NHS Standard Contract that do not have a service specification included within the contract.

In our experience, building up the range of service specifications in the contract so they cover all the major services delivered is key to smooth operation of the contract. It is also important that they are reviewed regularly.

Service specifications should not seek to replicate the detailed operational policies that the provider will already have in place. But they should set out key contractual outcomes required by the commissioner, including:

  • any relevant context to the service either at a national or local level
  • the broad quality outcomes that are required from the service, with any applicable measures set out in Schedule 4
  • scope, i.e. the service being commissioned, who is it for and any key links with other services
  • any generally applicable service standards which the service should adhere to, e.g. NICE standards or any locally agreed standards
  • which quality requirements and CQUIN goals, as set out in Schedule 4, are relevant to the service
  • any specific pricing and recording requirements that apply, with the detail set out in Schedules 3 and 6 respectively
  • location of the service, where relevant

Bailey & Moore have substantial experience in drafting service specifications, both for small individual services and larger service areas, such as emergency care services. We can also offer a constructive ‘critical friend’ review of current or proposed service specifications.

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