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Focus on... social enterprise

This month’s Focus on… looks at social enterprise models and what they can do for PBC. Here, Rebecca Chaloner outlines the Department of Health’s commitment to the concept.

This month's Focus on… looks at social enterprise models and what they can do for PBC. Here, Rebecca Chaloner outlines the Department of Health's commitment to the concept.

Social enterprise models are about connecting with and investing in communities, empowering staff and working in partnership to deliver innovative services.

The social enterprise sector is diverse, with more than 6,000 schemes estimated to be delivering health and social care in the UK. This figure continues to rise as growing numbers of health and social care professionals investigate social enterprise as a viable option to tackle unmet needs and address health inequalities.

Sharing the same public-sector ethos as the NHS, social enterprises reinvest surpluses into services and the community and run on business principles that improve quality and efficiency.

Clinicians are committed to delivering high-quality patient care, and some may feel frustrated by a system and processes that restrict their ability to achieve the change they desire. Social enterprise, with its scope to innovate and be flexible to local need, is one way to empower clinicians to deliver care that is truly responsive to patients' needs.

Social enterprise is not for everyone, nor is it for all services. However, it is an important option for those looking for a way to deliver a wide range of health and social care services as we move towards a more responsive, modern and targeted healthcare system.

Social enterprise is a way for PBC groups not only to support the commissioning of services but also to provide services in a way that enables them to address unmet local needs. It also offers the potential to forge a new partnership between professionals, users and the local community.

The Department of Health wants to ensure that social enterprises are in a position to add value to current services and that commissioners, through a range of providers, can offer choice and quality to patients, as well as value for money.

In line with its commitment in the NHS Next Stage Review, the department is encouraging the creation of new social enterprises to deliver primary and community services. To facilitate this, PCT staff have been granted the ‘right to request' to set up a social enterprise from their PCT. This allows staff to explore setting up a social enterprise to deliver services if they believe that gaining the independence and flexibility will enable them to improve services and outcomes for users. The department is now working with a number of ‘right to request' proposals and supporting them in developing their ideas to transform services.

The journey towards establishing a social enterprise requires determination and vision but there is support available through the £100m social enterprise investment fund (SEIF). The SEIF provides business advice as well as seed funding for start-up social enterprises and development loans for existing businesses. The fund is available to anyone in England operating, or wishing to start up, a social enterprise in health and social care.

The department is committed to supporting social enterprise as a way to increase social cohesion in communities, improve health and wellbeing and reach beyond traditional means of delivering care.

Rebecca Chaloner is head of the Department of Health's Social Enterprise Unit

www.dh.gov.uk/socialenterprise

www.dh.gov.uk/seif

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