Voluntary sector coalition bids to up user influence on DH policy

Health and social care charities joined forces this week to launch a lobbying body designed to increase the voluntary sector’s influence on government policy on behalf of users and patients.

National Voices was formally launched at a conference attended by a host of charities and Department of Health officials leading on policies including the adult care green paper and the creation of the first NHS constitution.

The umbrella body has been two years in gestation and is designed to fill a current vacuum in voluntary sector influence on the formulation of DH policy.

Clear commitment from DH

Jeremy Hughes, joint chair and chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said it had a “clear commitment” from the DH that National Voices would be able to “input into policy before it becomes policy”, and that it would have regular meetings with officials. He also said it would have quarterly meetings with the Local Government Association.

Hughes promised National Voices would not be driven by the government’s agenda but by the priorities of its member bodies and the service users and patients they represent.

Smaller organisations would be encouraged to join through a sliding scale of subscription fees, ranging from £25 a year for those with annual income of £50,000 or less, to £3250 for those with annual earnings of over £10m.

And Hughes said all members would send delegates to regular council meetings to discuss priorities, and would elect the board of trustees.

Long-Term Conditions Alliance to vote on merger

He added that the Long-Term Conditions Alliance, a coalition of over 100 health and social care charities, was voting next month on merging into National Voices, a move which Hughes said had been backed by the LTCA’s board of trustees.

National Voices’ other joint chair, Harry Cayton, the DH’s form national director for patients and the public, said it hoped to reverse what he saw as a “falling away of the service user voice being at the beginning of the policy process”.

He warned: “It always seems to me that the enthusiasm for service user involvement fades as soon as service users start changing things. The system runs away.”

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