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Improving Commissioning Practice in Adult Social Care Through Enhanced Collaboration with Public Health: a Qualitative Investigation of Local Authorities in England

Lead: Dr Iestyn Williams (Social Care)

Four service user and carer members will be part of the Study Advisory Group, and we will feed back with our Unit's User and Care Advisory Group. Public contributors will be involved in development of data collection tools, information provided to users and carers being interviewed, and in helping interpret interview findings.

Dates: 1 June 2021 - 31 May 2023


The responsibility of Local Authority (LA) commissioners is to shape supply so that services are matched with need across people, places and populations. To do this, they require skills and capacity in assessing the care needs (and assets) of service users and wider populations. LAs are required, with input from communities, to collect data on current and future demand and to share this with providers. Since 2012, public health teams have been based within LAs. Public health focusses on population health and addresses the factors influencing the health of both population groups and individuals (Ashton, 1990). Closer collaboration between people working in adult social care and in public health therefore holds the promise of helping to address the challenges LAs face when planning and commissioning social care, in several ways including: identifying future trends in social care need; supporting decision making; promoting integration between social care commissioners and the NHS; and responding to, and recovering from, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policy and Practice Partners:

NIHR School for Social Care Research; Local authorities; ADASS; Principal Social Worker Adults Network: BASW; Unison; Department of Health and Social Care; Local government association; Care England; Skills for Care; Royal College of Occupational Therapists; Public Health England; ADPH; Faculty of Public Health.

Co-Funding Partners:

ARC South London.

Aims and Objectives:

The aim of this research is to investigate the extent and nature of collaboration between adult social care and public health prior to and during the COVID-19 outbreak, and to inform ongoing and future adult social care practice in areas of planning and commissioning practice at different levels. It addresses the questions:

  1. How have adult social care and public health collaborated prior to, during and subsequent to the COVID-19 outbreak, and what are the areas of common interest and focus?
  2. What would effective collaboration look like and are there examples of good practice in collaborative working and/or common pitfalls, including in ongoing responses to COVID-19 and recovery?
  3. What are the opportunities and challenges for adult social care and public health in seeking to create strong collaborative relationships of support for planning, commissioning and practice in adult social care services in the future?

The project will address these aims and questions through the following objectives:

  • Explore collaboration between adult social care and public health in LAs across England, pre, during and potentially post COVID-19, and produce a typology of current collaborative models (Q1).
  • Identify challenges to collaboration since the Health & Social Care Act 2012 and in light of the COVID-19 outbreak (Q2).
  • Identify and share good practice principles and examples for strengthening collaboration for the future, whilst also supporting ongoing responses to COVID-19 and recovery (Q2 and Q3).


The study is designed to meet the aim of investigating the extent and nature of collaboration between adult social care and public health to inform ongoing and future social care planning and commissioning practice. It involves two phases, referred to as work packages one and two (WP1 and WP2). The open-ended nature of the research questions reflects the relative lack of evidence in this area, and implies the need for a primarily qualitative approach informed by relevant theory and research.

In WP1 we will develop: i) working hypotheses for how collaboration across adult social care and public health could lead to improvements in adult social care practice; and ii) a typology of collaborative models. These will be based on data collection from interviews and from secondary sources. In WP2, using the typology, we will identify up to four ‘maximum variation’ case studies, and will conduct interviews with practitioners and service users/carers to test the hypotheses from WP1, adding depth to the broad insights gained. From this we will identify promising ways of working between adult social care and public health that can be taken up elsewhere, including responses to COVID-19 and what might happen afterwards.

Main Results:




Impact of Implementation:

More efficient commissioning at the interface of adult social care and public health.

Fri 26 Feb 2021, 16:21 | Tags: Social Care Iestyn Williams