Acevo commission urges government to collaborate with voluntary sector on public health

Commission chaired by Simon Antrobus makes 14 proposals, as Acevo declares this is 'voluntary sector territory'

Ralph Michell, head of policy at Acevo
Ralph Michell, head of policy at Acevo

Charity chief executives body Acevo is urging the government to involve the voluntary sector in a "genuinely collaborative way" in its plans to improve public health.

Ministers are expected to announce details of a new public health service in a white paper in December. The service would focus on preventive work in areas such as obesity, mental health and smoking.

The NHS currently spends about £4bn a year on preventive services, so the new organisation would have a significant budget.

In February, Acevo set up a 15-person Commission on Public Health, chaired by Simon Antrobus, chief executive of the drug and alcohol treatment charity Addaction, to consider the voluntary sector’s role.

The commission’s final report, which will be published today, makes 14 recommendations, the first of which says officials working on the white paper should set up a group to ensure the sector is involved "in a genuinely collaborative way, in keeping with the government’s big society approach".

Other recommendations include making the "simplification and standardisation of public sector procurement processes a priority" and requiring directors of public health to award an increasing proportion of contracts to voluntary and private sector providers.

The report also says an external advisory group should be established for the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Public Health. The group should include voluntary sector representatives and have "strong links" to the Department of Health and the Office for Civil Society, says the commission.

Ralph Michell, head of policy at Acevo, said: "Public health is high on the political agenda. There are some potentially big changes in the pipeline and if this isn’t voluntary sector territory I don’t know what is."

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