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About service specifications

An overview of service specifications, including how they are structured and what they are used for.

What are service specifications and what are they used for?

Some health services have minimum national service requirements that must be used when contracting for or providing these services.  Nationwide service specifications describe these minimum national service requirements. It is important to note, that some services are not covered by a nationwide service specification as national consistency is not required for every service delivered by the public health system. Nationwide service specifications are jointly agreed between the Ministry of Health and DHBs, and reviewed and updated as needed.

The purpose of a nationwide service specification is to:

  • clarify the services to be funded/provided and list the purchase unit codes relevant to the services
  • agree on reporting requirements to collect information for service analysis and planning
  • ensure common understanding of the components of services and linkages between them and other services
  • ensure service specific requirements are applied consistently throughout the sector
  • allow for benchmarking and auditing of the services
  • ensure quality requirements are consistent.

Nationwide service specifications are designed to be used as they are. If DHB funders have any additional requirements or exclusions, they should be documented in the provider quality specifics section of the contract or agreement with the service provider. This is to make it clear what the national requirements are and what the funder's local requirements are.

What does Mandatory or Recommended status mean?

Nationwide Service Specifications are usually published with either a Mandatory or Recommended status.

Mandatory: DHB funders must use these service specifications when contracting for or providing services. These service specifications have been agreed as fit for purpose and endorsed by the 20 DHBs General Managers of Planning and Funding and the Ministry of Health. Service specifications have a mandatory status for the purposes of national consistency, usually for reporting information, counting activity and quality requirements.

Recommended or Non-Mandatory: DHB funders use these service specifications to plan and establish the service to meet the recommended requirements within an agreed transition period. Funders and service providers may continue using a previous service specification for the term of the agreement but they are expected to transition to the Recommended service specification when renewing or preparing a new contract or agreement. Recommended service specifications become Mandatory when they have been agreed as fit for purpose and endorsed by the 20 DHBs' General Managers of Planning and Funding.

The suite of Mental Health & Addiction Services service specifications provides purchasing flexibility for funders. DHBs may amend or combine the non-mandatory tier three service specifications under their tier two specifications to meet their commissioning needs. To provide a level of consistency the provider reporting to PRIMHD (Mental health data collection) and the use of appropriate purchase unit (PU) codes is still required at the tier three specification level when contacting for these services.

How are Service Specifications structured?

A tier structure is often used for service specifications to avoid repetition of content and elements that are common to a range or group of services

The tier structure should support the funder and provider's understanding of the total description of the service to be delivered and provide  flexibility to allow for a funder to add additional provider quality specifications or reporting requirements to an agreement with a provider.

Nationwide Service Specifications use a 3-tiered structure. Each tier describes the service at a different level of detail.

  • Tier 1 are overarching service specifications that contains generic principles and content common to all the tiered specifications below it. (May also contain service guidelines in the appendices for services without service specifications).
  • Tier 2 includes the elements specific to that particular service and includes a reference to its generic overarching document so that the total service requirements are explicit.
  • Tier 3 are more detailed specific service descriptions for specific services.

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