Threading the Needle

Using third sector evidence to commission outcomes for health and social care

Threading the Needle is a Scottish Government funded programme to support health and social care commissioners use third sector evidence to commission outcomes for health and social care.  

In Phase 1 (2015-2017) we worked in Glasgow, Fife, North Ayrshire and Perth and Kinross. ‘Gathering the threads’, our final event, took place on 31 January 2017 and we launched our resources – see below.

In Phase 2 (from 2017) we have continued working in Perth and Kinross and Fife and with national partners.

In 2017-18 in Perth and Kinross we attempted to support a pilot project to integrate third sector data with NHS statistics but came up against workload and protocol barriers.  We were more successful supporting the commissioning team and third sector to develop “service level outcomes” for services to report against (rather than high level strategic outcomes).

“The co-productive approach of working with the third sector in the early stages and taking ideas and feedback is a real positive” Helen MacKinnon, Third Sector Interface (TSI)

In 2017-18 in Fife we supported all partners to gather collective learning about how befriending helps Fife Health and Social Care Partnership achieve its strategic priorities. On a practical level we aligned the service level agreement with the outcomes in From the source to the sea – understanding how befriending can help Fife Health and Social Care Partnership address its priorities.  (the evaluating befriending model developed in Phase 1).  


ESS is a member of the Scottish Government group on third sector data in health and social care services.

We have worked with national partners to identify learning about overcoming challenges when facilitating change programmes. 

Learning points