Friday, 16 March 2012

Have a healthy weekend!

An unfortunate attack in the Times recently on the work of our countries charities. Suggesting they should be campaigning or doing advocacy. It required an answer. And got one in the form of my letter in today' edition. In case you don't buy said paper here is what it said,

Health charities
We should be thankful to have so many exceptional organisations with the best interests of patients at heart

Sir, The answer to the question posed by Margaret McCartney (“Do health charities do any good?”, times2, Mar 13), is unequivocally “yes”. Health charities save lives and assist people to cope with serious medical conditions. Their work to raise awareness of particular conditions encourages early diagnoses, while their funding for research supports the development of new treatments. Their support is valuable to those struggling with the stress of ill-health. Furthermore, many such charities work directly with patients to offer innovative, preventative health and care services within local communities.

Health charities are required like any other to demonstrate to the Charity Commission that their work is carried out for the public benefit, and their advocacy activity is no exception. We should be thankful to have so many exceptional organisations with the best interests of patients at heart.

But this may just be a harbinger of things to come. I wonder whether , as unemployment rises , as communities and citizens find it harder to cope , we will need to become more strident , more outspoken. And as we do , will that make government and institutions more antagonistic towards us ? One thing is very clear; ACEVO as the voice of the sector's Leaders , will speak out. The leadership role can often be a difficult one. Many of ACEVO's members know that being outspoken can cause you problems. But anyone can lead from the back. There are plenty of models of leaders whose position is to lead from the lowest common denominator. Or not say anything and hope the problem will pass. It's nor style I like. It is not a style that I think works in out third sector.

And on the subject of health I do wonder whether the change to local commissioning , led by GPs will change the culture of the service so that we can put resources into prevention and into the management of long term conditions and community based solutions. My Director of Policy points out an article in the HSJ which says that the vast majority of people being appointed as the managers of the new " clinical commissioning consortia" are the former managers of the PCTs. I'm sure many are excellent professionals. But how will they change the culture ? Will we just get a replication of the old fashioned bureaucratic tendering processes that are so redolent of the way the USSR was run ?

And on that note how brilliant to note the launch of the " Merlin standard" for use in contracting in DWP. This standard is the idea and initiative of my Policy Director Ralph Michell who proposed it in the task force report into the work led by Tony Hawkhead and David Freud before the last election.The merlin standard, and the teeth behind it, represent a significant step forward. As work programme prime contractors are assessed against the standard, I would urge third sector organisations - whether they are in a supply chain or not - to make their views known to the assessors. The Merlin standard is not a panacea for the issues voluntary organisations have with the work programme, but it sends a clear message that cowboy supply chain management will not be tolerated.

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