Voluntary organisations: from Cinderella to white knight?
We need evidence of effectiveness of those that deliver care directly
For much of our history medical care was delivered by religious organisations or philanthropic individuals and institutions.1 Immediately before the second world war the prestigious forerunners of Britain's present day teaching hospitals were financed by charitable contributions. The advent of the NHS displaced voluntary organisations from organised health care. Such organisations have not withered, however, but have prospered: half of the current national organisations have been started over the past 20 years.2 Now, after many years in official wilderness, voluntary organisations are back on the political agenda, their potential contribution having been highlighted in recent white papers on the future of health care.34 The cynic might quibble that there is no formal strategy to increase the role of voluntary organisations and that no financial support has been earmarked to achieve this. But this does not deflect attention away from the real question: why should voluntary organisations be attracting this level