The government is creating an advisory group to 'provide strategic advice' on reform of the health and social care system.

The government is creating an advisory group to 'provide strategic advice' on reform of the health and social care system.

Health minister Andy Burnham told HSJthat the group - which will meet for the first time in the autumn - was part of a series of efforts by the government to better understand and engage with staff and stakeholders over the reforms.

Members will include representatives from the NHS Confederation, Unison, British Medical Association, Foundation Trust Network, Healthcare Commission, Amicus, Royal College of Surgeons, NHS Alliance and the Allied Health Professionals Federation.

The move attempts to counter criticisms that the government has failed to achieve the kind of consensus for its policies which backed the 2000 NHS plan.

Shortly after his appointment as health minister in May, Mr Burnham was asked by prime minister Tony Blair to develop an 'engagement and communications plan' to support the current reforms. The minister said he would deliver his report to Mr Blair in the autumn, and would spend the summer shadowing NHS staff over 10 days to inform this.

Mr Burnham has some experience of the health field. He spent a brief period working for the NHS Confederation in 1997, after three years as a health researcher for then shadow health minister Tessa Jowell. During an interview with HSJ, he took the chance to endorse HSJ's 'Managers Make the Difference' campaign and calls for a supportive management culture, reward, training and development and open recruitment.

Mr Burnham said: 'I have always believed NHS managers are much maligned and wrongly so. It's a crucially important role. In many ways you hear the same frustrations about managers as you do about MPs and ministers.'

The minister said he believed the 'top-down' configuration of the system, with instructions passed down from the DoH, had ultimately 'bred resentment' among both managers and government.

He urged managers to work more closely on engagement with local communities, in particular flagging up the role of local government overview and scrutiny committees.

'I think HSJhas done some very important work on the relations between NHS managers, MPs and councillors and I think its an area we need to do more work on.'