Thankfully the Department of Health took pity on public health services commissioners when they transferred to local authorities and provided them with a template, ie non-mandatory (as opposed to a model and mandatory), contract (http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2013/01/phs-contract/) for use when commissioning public health services in accordance with their public health functions under the NHS Act 2006 (as amended) and secondary legislation.

Local authorities are invited to use this template as the basis for commissioning public health services in substitution for their own more general services contracts.

The template is broadly speaking a shorter version of the NHS Standard Contract 2013/14 and contains many of the same or similar provisions. Where it scores over local authority contracts is that it contains the NHS required provisions necessary when commissioning health services.

These include provisions as to safeguarding vulnerable adults and children. Although the contract relies on the provider having a suitable safeguarding policy or using the commissioner's policy instead, commissioners will need to consider how frequently providers' employees should be vetted.

The drafting of the service specification(s) will be key to ensuring that all necessary clinical governance arrangements are in place. Although the contract does provide for regular reporting to the commissioner on service quality performance, commissioners will need to consider what other matters should be reported on.

Commissioners will also need to review information governance provisions carefully to ensure they are up to date in the light of recent developments in this area and that they cover the commissioner's necessary data reporting requirements, specifically around the NHS Care Records Services (which is not covered in the template) where necessary.

Another couple of issues which may need to be explored and supplementary provisions inserted are in relation to TUPE transfers of staff into the service at the start of the contract (guidance produced in relation to the contract includes optional TUPE provisions concerning retendering and handover at the end only) for insertion in the Contract and ensuring that pensions are protected where appropriate.

The Department has invited feedback from users of the contract as it is intended to 'refresh' the template each year. Any comments can be sent to publichealthcommissioning@dh.gsi.gov.uk.