Healthwatch Sutton is to be the first Healthwatch organisation to be registered as a charity.
Established under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, Healthwatch organisations will be appointed by local authorities from April, to replace Local Involvement Networks.
They will allow communities to voice their opinions and concerns about local health and social care provision, and will be able to pass information to Healthwatch England, a subcommittee of the Care Quality Commission, the health and social care regulator.
Tom Murdoch, an associate at the law firm Stone King, who has worked with the south London-based Healthwatch Sutton, said it would be the first local Healthwatch to become a charity now that the Charity Commission had agreed its objects and begun the process of registration.
In mid-February, Sutton Council awarded Healthwatch Sutton the contract to run the local Healthwatch organisation, said Murdoch. He said it was important for local Healthwatch organisations to have charitable status because it provided assurances that any funding they received from local authorities would be used purely for charitable purposes.
"The really pleasing thing is that we've shown the charity model is well suited to the new health and social care landscape," said Murdoch. "Social enterprises and other novel structures are great where they attract otherwise unavailable investment – but where community interests are paramount, the preferable model in many cases is still a charity."
A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: "We have received an application to register Healthwatch Sutton as a charity, which is subject to our usual assessment. It is the first Healthwatch organisation to apply to register as a charity and we expect it to be the first to join the register."