Understanding the NHS

3 mins read

Major changes have been made to how NHS health services are commissioned or bought across England. This means that patients and carers could have a bigger say in influencing how health services run in their local area.

Understanding the NHS

If you find ‘health’ confusing, you are not alone. It is a complex system with many layers and organisations working within it.

Our webpage An introduction to the NHS provides an overview of the main organisations and jargon.

You can also download our Introduction to the NHS briefing [PDF], which has guidance on how forums can start to influence health locally. This will be useful if you find the NHS confusing, haven’t had much involvement with health services or want to understand who’s who in health.

This King’s Fund animation is a good explanation of the NHS’s complexity.

GP’s Learning Disability Register Request

See further information about a joint piece of work by Contact, the NNPCF (National Network of Parent Carer Forums), the Department for Education and the Department of Health to raise awareness about the GP’s Learning Disability Register [PDF].

This includes an opportunity for forums to raise awareness among their members about this register and the benefits it offers using an example letter [DOC]. This work is also being supported by activity by NHS England to highlight to Clinical Commissioning Groups the need to increase the number of young people with Learning Disabilities on this register. 

For further information on this, please contact parent.participation@contact.org.uk


Find out what commissioners do and how parent carer forums might work with them – clinical commissioning groups and NHS England [PDF] (formerly the NHS Commissioning Board) are now responsible for purchasing health services.

Find contact details of your clinical commissioning group [PDF].

Read our tips for forums when contacting clinical commissioning group(s) [PDF].

Healthwatch – supporting public and patient involvement

Local Healthwatch organisations are being set up in your local area.  

Our parent carer participation case studies show how patient groups working direct with commissioners and mangers can be a simple but effective way to improve services.

Joining up services across health, education and social care

Other information you might find useful