Supporting good health: The role of the charity sector

The statutory system is central and hugely important to guaranteeing adequate healthcare across the UK, but conversations about health need to look beyond the doors of hospitals and GP surgeries. In this discussion paper, we present seven key areas in which charities have the potential to improve the quality of UK health services.

Early reports indicate that the NHS is struggling to meet efficiency targets, which may create a deficit of £30bn a year by 2020/21. At the same time, an ageing population and a significant rise in the number of people living with long-term conditions are placing additional pressure on health and care resources. Continuing cuts without changes to the way in which our health system operates will compromise the quality of services and the ability of the NHS to meet demand.

Charities can play a significant part in meeting these challenges, providing expert healthcare, conducting research, raising awareness, supporting patients, and promoting mental health and well-being. For each of the seven areas below, we outline the current state of play and the benefits that stand to be made through charity involvement at a national and local level.

Role with individuals

1. Representing patient voice and advancing patient involvement
2. Helping individuals to understand their condition and navigate the system
3. Shaping prevention and early intervention
4. Addressing the social determinants of health

Role within the system

5. Delivering services
6. Influencing the design of services
7. Making scarce state resources go further

Next steps

We believe that the roles outlined in this paper are not always well understood or communicated by charities individually or collectively, nor fully appreciated by those in the health and care sector. If we can make improvements in these areas, there are substantial gains to be made in healthcare and for the economy as a whole.

The NHS Five Year Forward View provided a stark reminder that the NHS needs new ways of working and specifically stated that the health system needs to develop ‘stronger partnerships with charitable and voluntary sector organisations’.

This is the first consultative step in what we hope becomes a longer research process. We welcome any feedback and would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the questions raised and future priorities. Do get in touch via or tweet us at @NPCthinks.