Headlines: July 12th, 2006

Primary Care Trusts are being encouraged to look to local voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations when they commission health and social care services. A new report from a Department of Health taskforce is also setting out practical tools for PCTs, advising them how to make the most of the voluntary sector.The report says community and voluntary bodies can bring additional benefits to patients and service users by offering a range of high-quality, personalised services. It also provides advice for voluntary groups on how to succeed in bidding for contracts and provides a proposed model contract as a basis for discussion.

Ivan Lewis, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Care Services said the Department had promised flexible care close to home in the White Paper, “Our health, our care, our say” and this new report would help open up provision to the third sector which had a wealth of expertise to share. “Not only does this report provide useful information for PCTs on the contribution the third sector can make, but even more importantly proposes a set of practical tools for commissioners to consider as they plan their local services,” he said.

The report advocates greater awareness and expertise about the third sector among commissioners, consistency of contracts and regulation across health and social care, a fair playing field in the commissioning process and assistance to third sector providers to help them adapt their behaviour as equal players in service provision.

The Third Sector Commissioning Task Force believes breaking down barriers will result in more successful partnerships such as the one that already exists between the charity Advocacy Partners and the London Borough of Merton, working with elderly patients who need practical support after being discharged from hospital. Jo Williams, co-chair of the Taskforce said she was genuinely excited by the opportunity that the report represented to make a reality of partnership between the public and third sectors.The taskforce hopes the report will generate responses from commissioners and the third sector which will be fed into the second commissioning framework due in December.