I recently met with the team at South East Health – a recently certified social enterprise which is a conglomeration of doctors’ cooperatives, carrying out a variety of services including out of hours care, a roving GP, offender health and they run the NHS 111 service for the Great Yarmouth area (amongst many other things). My meeting was with the whole senior management team and I found the whole experience very inspirational. From my brief immersion, you could tell that there was a really collective effort shared in not only making services better and more joined-up for patients, but also how the reinvestment of profits and the social enterprise model can make a difference for the better.
We shared the frustrations and challenges of the NHS currently and how the bad stories often eclipse the good ones. The social enterprise model has so much to offer in the new contract environment – seeing ourselves as businesses but not at the expense of the care. We need to highlight this more effectively and ensure that good social enterprises like South East Health are on the same podiums as the private healthcare providers who are so effective at marketing their services across Government and the wider world.
They do have good stories too. In the face of so much bad publicity about the lack of performance of the new 111 service, their contract is getting extremely good feedback. But squeezes in budgets, which are facing everyone at the moment, are making life harder and harder as margins are cut. Commissioners need to not only understand the value of a social enterprise approach but also understand the dangers of contracting a substandard service from a purely cost-cutting basis.
It is only by working more collectively and effectively that we can bring pressure and influence to bear. South East Health represents some of the best practice in difficult times – part of a solution to a problem that many are grappling with. We just need more people to know about it. Particularly, as the Social Value Act puts the onus on clinical commissioners to deliver value to the local community.
Sentinel Healthcare CIC is another good example in the NHS, of spending money effectively, trying to ensure value for money and ensuring surpluses don’t go to private shareholders but back into the community, as a certified social enterprise.
This is what commissioners should be looking out for if they’re adhering to guidelines outlined in the Social Value Act. What better way than by looking for the Social Enterprise Mark?