Seven voluntary sector representatives have been included in a 40-strong panel set up to get people involved in the government’s "listening exercise" on NHS modernisation.
The NHS Future Forum includes Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the chief executives body Acevo, who will take the lead on choice and competition.
He will be released from his duties at Acevo for the next two months so he can take part in the forum full-time.
The forum’s responsibilities include engaging charity leaders, NHS staff and other stakeholders in discussions about improving the NHS. It will produce a report at the end of May for David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health.
The other voluntary sector representatives included in the forum are:
- Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive, Turning Point
- Ratna Dutt, chief executive, the Race Equality Foundation
- Paul Farmer, chief executive, Mind
- Mark Goldring, chief executive, Mencap
- Thomas Hughes-Hallett, chief executive, Marie Curie Cancer Care
- Jeremy Taylor, chief executive, National Voices.
It also includes patient representatives, clinicians and health experts.
Bubb told Third Sector the voluntary sector would benefit from having representatives on the forum in their role as advocates of patients and citizens.
"A lot of Acevo members represent deaf and blind people, for example, and they have views on the services they receive," he said.
The issue of choice was at the core of the reforms, said Bubb. "Competition is a means of securing greater choice – these reforms are not about privatisation," he said. "I don’t think we should hung up on the issue of privatisation in a way that is unhelpful."
Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of National Voices, a coalition of national health and social care organisations, said that although the government had acknowledged that it needed the support of voluntary sector organisations when implementing NHS reform, it was important that third sector bodies were given a proper opportunity to play a role in providing services.
"There are examples of private sector providers of end-of-life care undercutting charities by offering a cheaper, but not a better service," he said. "There needs to be a fair playing field."