What this project intends to find out

We aim to examine how Local Authorities (LAs) have recently gone about deciding which alcohol services to award contracts for (i.e. ‘commission’).

We will examine

  • Key changes in the national and local commissioning landscape since 2013/14
  • Differences/similarities between areas in how services are commissioned
  • Stakeholder views (e.g. commissioners, service providers, service users) regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the commissioning process and the impact on service provision (e.g. access for vulnerable groups, quality)
  • Stakeholder views regarding future risks/opportunities

Why is this innovative?

We lack detailed information about how different areas decide which alcohol treatment and recovery services to commission. We will use an in-depth ‘case study’ approach in 4-6 diverse locations to build a detailed picture of commissioning. This will involve:

  • Review of commissioning and other documentation
  • Interviews with approximately 30 key stakeholders across case study sites

The case studies will provide detailed insight into how commissioning decisions are made, identifying common issues and problems, as well as concerns about future commissioning. Results will be presented at a commissioning stakeholder workshop hosted by the research team and members of a service user involvement panel. Commissioning stakeholders from across England will be asked to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches taken by LAs, their relevance to other geographic areas, service user reflections, and preferred commissioning models. A summary discussion report, incorporating stakeholder feedback, will provide a useful snapshot of current commissioning practice and issues.


Shrinking budgets mean LAs have to make careful decisions about which alcohol services to offer. There is significant disparity in the level and type of treatment available for people with alcohol dependence in different areas. This project will provide information for those involved in commissioning about which approaches have been more or less useful elsewhere.