The voluntary sector will be at the heart of the government’s plans to reform the NHS, health secretary Andrew Lansley told delegates at Acevo’s health and social care conference yesterday.
In a speech to members of the chief executives body, Lansley said the government wanted to decentralise decision-making on healthcare and give local communities more of a say in how services were run.
Lansley announced a widespread shake-up of the NHS on Monday, saying the government’s aim was to "create the largest social enterprise sector in the world".
He told delegates at the Acevo conference that the new plans would create opportunities for the sector "at every stage in the process".
"There is opportunity because the voluntary sector is at the heart of many communities and of understanding how cross-community programmes can have the best effect," he said.
"There is also opportunity because across government we are going to be open to new providers, and the voluntary sector is at the heart of that."
Paul Corrigan, author of the report Saving for the NHS, which he presented at the conference, said the sector should take the initiative and devise new business models to present to NHS commissioners.
"New products must demonstrate how they will save money," he said. "GPs will be looking for economic models in a way that primary care trusts are not."
Corrigan said new models should give patients more control over managing their health in the same way that supermarkets have given shoppers the option to use automated checkouts.
"This is an economic, not a moral discussion," he said. "The third sector needs to turn passion into realising value in healthcare."