Opinion: Just try a short stay at the Health Hotel

Peter Cardy, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Relief

Throughout the party conference season, a momentous but different show ran parallel. Nobody was thrown out, security checks were minimal and there was no contest for the leadership. Charities co-operating are a sight to gladden the heart of every thinking donor; charities working with public and private bodies even more so. My colleagues and I were privileged to be part of three big alliances.

The Health Hotel was inspired by Gill Morgan, head of the NHS Confederation.

She observed how much cost and frustration was involved in health-related organisations running scattered fringe meetings, competing for party delegates to attend and ministers and MPs to speak. Her model was the Institute for Public Policy Research and Channel 4, which provide a home for many policy-critical fringe events. The Health Hotel brings together more than 30 bodies, including large and small charities, statutory bodies, commercial bodies, umbrella groups and regulators. As a way of getting disparate organisations working together, and of getting the front-bench teams from the Government and the opposition to turn up, it is unrivalled.

The Partnership on Long-Term Conditions includes more than 20 bodies, mostly voluntary, which share a concern for the huge problems brought by the improved survival of once-fatal conditions by all age groups. In some ways, its messages are the hardest to get across, because the struggle to live a decent life in the face of disability or degeneration is so much less attention-grabbing than life-saving drugs, heroic doctors and nurses, and state-of-the-art hospitals. But under the banner of the 17 Million Reasons campaign, a group of respected organisations conveys a message that is difficult to ignore.

The Cancer Campaigning Group comprises 25 charities and companies of every kind and size. Just getting them in the same room is a miracle, but it doesn't stop there. The head honchos only play walk-on parts; the stars are the policy officers whose patient diplomacy has produced a common programme judged impossible by the old hands. In the past three years, it has developed 20 unanimous calls for action from government and the NHS across the whole of the cancer agenda, from prevention to social care and research to information.

Who says charities can't work together, or with the private and statutory sectors? A day at the seaside in September would lay that ghost to rest.

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