Commissioners have been urged not to hold third sector health services at 'arm's length'.

Speaking at a conference on commissioning, care services minister Ivan Lewis said it was vital to use the expertise in the voluntary and private sector.

Partnership working was central to a move away from a 'woolly notion' of social care.

Mr Lewis, the only health minister to keep his job in the recent reshuffle, said it was important to get away from the idea that 'partnership working [was] the mutual suppression of mutual loathing in the pursuit of government money'.

'We need integration between the local authority, the third sector and the private sector. All those things must come together to secure better health outcomes.

'There are still many organisations that function in their silos. To create this new system we need to secure a one-system approach [to commissioning] in every community,' he said.

The minister also called for 'an increasing debate on what we offer in terms of social care'.

He said world-class commissioning in the NHS would have been achieved if patients could: access care when they most needed it; exercise maximum control over decisions; and articulate that the service was on their side.

Staff would also need to feel a sense of job satisfaction and taxpayers would need to get better value for money, he added.