The government's proposed reforms to the health and social care system include clear aspirations for the voluntary and community sector as a provider of health services, a source of support for commissioning and a partner in tackling health inequalities. However, the reforms also present a number of challenges and risks.
The voluntary and community sector in health: Implications of the proposed NHS reforms considers the main opportunities and challenges facing the sector. It discusses what needs to happen to ensure the sector can flourish in the new system and what it needs to do to grasp new opportunities.
As an existing provider of services and of knowledge about local needs, the voluntary and community sector can develop its role in helping the NHS deliver better, more efficient care. But the likely impact of the reforms is uncertain. In a best case scenario, the voluntary and community sector would be empowered as a real partner to GP consortia and health and wellbeing boards, but in the worst case scenario the sector will be left struggling to forge new relationships and unable to survive in the competitive market.
Based on a joint project between The King's Fund and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, this paper includes a number of recommendations, aimed at national policy-makers, local bodies and the voluntary and community sector itself, to ensure that the sector can grasp this opportunity to participate fully in the new health and social care system.
These include ensuring that:
- commissioning consortia and health and wellbeing boards are required to involve and engage with the sector
- new and innovative funding mechanisms are developed to ensure the sector can compete on a level playing field with private and NHS providers
- the voluntary and community sector takes a strategic approach to the future by addressing its development needs, urgently tackling the need to better measure and demonstrate its value and overcoming issues of internal fragmentation.
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