Charities and not-for-profit healthcare organisations need to be 'hard-wired' to the government's 'ongoing reform programmes', a government taskforce has said.

Charities and not-for-profit healthcare organisations need to be 'hard-wired' to the government's 'ongoing reform programmes', a government taskforce has said.

The Department of Health's third-sector commissioning taskforce has set out how charitable and not-for-profit and social enterprise organisations should secure contracts from primary care trusts to provide services.

Its report, No Excuses. Embrace Partnership now. Step towards change!, sets out the challenge to 'ensure that third-sector perspectives are reflected among the set of &Quot;first-order&Quot; questions [when primary care trusts commission] in the future rather than the retrospective footnote to policy development they have tended to be in the past'.

The taskforce was co-chaired by social care minister Ivan Lewis
and Mencap chief executive Jo Williams.

Mr Lewis said: 'Not only does this report provide useful information for PCTs on the contribution the third sector can make, but even more importantly it proposes a set of practical tools for commissioners to consider as they plan their local services.'

The report proposes a model contract for commissioners doing business with the third sector and stipulates that a 'lack of action to address the barriers to third-sector participation can no longer be justified'.

It also calls for 'funding stability' for the third sector through longer-term contracts; a 'common language' around cost structures and cost pricing; and a 'fair and proportionate balance of risk with all providers'.

Social Enterprise Coalition chief executive Jonathan Bland, a member of the taskforce, said social enterprise had a 'huge role to play' in reforming and improving services.

However, he warned that this would only happen if 'commissioners properly understand how this way of doing business operates'.

The report also advocates a 'fair playing field' for the third sector in commissioning, especially in relation to the cost and price of services. And it calls for third sector providers to adapt their behaviour as equal players in service provision.