Infrequent, inconsistent, incorrect and often poorly timed communication was at the heart of nearly all the bad practice that our research found. In one case consultation had taken place two years before the decision: stakeholders were brought together but then nothing happened until the service provider was given six months notice that the contract would end.
There is a specific point here about transparency and the need to explain clearly the rationale for decisions, how they are made, the evidence they are based on, and the implications of them. Where communication is poor, this can lead to uncertainty for providers, affecting their strategy and operations, limiting their effectiveness and driving up costs.
In many cases there was a lack of clarity as to how the impact of decommissioning is being assessed. Even in the middle of a decommissioning process, many of the providers we interviewed had not been informed about whether the commissioners had assessed the impact of decommissioning. A majority suggested that there had been no impact assessment carried out. Sharing impact assessments promptly with providers could benefit both commissioners and providers.
Many people interviewed considered that decisions were not strategic, were primarily driven by the current cuts agenda, and were made without reference to value for money. In one case, although the service provider felt that the decision by the commissioner to discontinue a particular service was the right one, it could have been a joint decision had the commissioner engaged with the provider. In this case, the opportunity to think together strategically about alternative solutions for service users had been missed.
The page What does good practice look like? outlines good practice in this key area. It identifies the risks of not following good practice and looks at how these risks might be mitigated in cases where timeframe is very tight or the context makes high quality decommissioning unrealistic.