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Gold, incentives and meh

Credit crunch may offer PBC opportunities

The credit crunch may boost the PBC opportunities for social enterprises, a survey suggests.

By Emma Wilkinson

The credit crunch may boost the PBC opportunities for social enterprises, a survey suggests.

Those involved in social enterprises predict the economic downturn may act as a launch pad for their model of delivering care as health authorities tighten their belts and push harder for efficiency gains.

A survey of 88 providers, commissioners, funders and consultants to social enterprises found that more than two-thirds expected to be doing more business over the coming year. This was attributed to belt-tightening and a belief among commissioners that social enterprises offered better value as they were less cost-driven.

The questionnaire also highlighted a belief among respondents that social enterprises were well equipped to work with hard-to-reach service users, had an admirable public service ethos and had the capacity and flexibility to be innovative.

But concerns remained that social enterprises lacked capacity, scale and resources to handle big contracts, the survey showed.

There was also a cultural barrier among some commissioners to trying new approaches, as well as a lack of awareness and understanding of social enterprise and what it has achieved, respondents said.

Mark Johnson, managing director of TPPlaw, the specialist public services law firm that conducted the research, said the economic climate may prove critical in overcoming some of the inertia that existed between commissioners and social enterprises.

But he added that the results showed there was still ambivalence among commissioners, with only 36% stating they were likely to do more business with such providers in the next year.

He said: ‘Our survey shows that commissioners do believe that social enterprises have a valuable role to play in modernising health and social care services.

‘But there is a gap in understanding and confidence.

‘Social enterprises need to market themselves better, explain their proposition and benefits to commissioners more effectively and shout about their successes.'

Mo Girach, deputy lead on Social Enterprise NHS Network and a special adviser to the NHS Alliance, has been involved in the setting up of many social enterprises and believes the credit crunch will have an effect one way or the other.

‘Of course, it could go the other way – it could be a launch pad, but also a discouragement because they still have to find the money.'

He agreed that social enterprises could do better by improving their marketing strategies.

‘One of the problems with social enterprise is about how people perceive it – if you call it a co-operative people view it differently.

‘They need to sell it as a business entity run by GPs putting patients at the heart of what they do.'

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