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Definitions of decommissioning vary but the majority describe it as involving:

  • a change in the provision of a service

This may mean stopping a service or a significant part of it. It can also include terminating or re-negotiating a contract or grant with an existing service provider, where this is driven by commissioning needs, including reduced budgets.

  • an improvement to existing service provision

Existing provision may end to:

  • make space for a new and improved service;
  • enable innovation in service provision;
  • provide better value for money, perhaps through more effective achievement of the desired outcomes or more efficient delivery; or
  • better fit the level of provision to demand.

For the purposes of this guidance, we have adopted the following definition, which should be read in conjunction with the above:

‘Decommissioning is stopping provision of a service or a significant part of a service in order to bring about an improvement to existing service provision.’

Decommissioning is a facet of commissioning – to be effective it needs to be embedded in your existing approach to commissioning and take a strategic and holistic commissioning approach.  Like commissioning, it can be thought of as cyclical as in the figure below.


[Based on the NAO model of commissioning and third sector organisation]