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Independents' Day

Social enterprise funding pledged by Government

By Ian Cameron

The Department of Health has pledged to help GPs set up not-for-profit organisations to help fight off the challenge of private providers.

It plans to create a fund which will give start-up capital and advice to GPs who want to set up 'social enterprise' models of health care delivery.

A department spokesman refused to reveal how much money would be available, but said it wanted to lower the 'considerable barriers' stopping GPs setting up social enterprises to provide NHS services.

Social enterprises are not-for-profit businesses owned and run by clinicians and members of the public, which operate for the benefit of the community.

They are one of the options available to GPs who want to set up an umbrella organisation bringing together several practices to help win NHS contracts.

Some GPs and other clinicians have already set up social enterprises, but lack of knowledge about how they work and high start-up costs have put others off.

Dr Clare Highton, a GP in east London, helped set up East London Intermediate Care, a social enterprise covering 500,000 people in City and Hackney Teaching and Tower Hamlets PCTs (see box, right).

She said she would have benefited from Government support as the GPs involved had to use their own money to set up the organisation.

Dr Highton said: 'It's good to know they think social enterprise is a good model for health care. Even though the PCTs contributed to initial costs we've had to fund legal fees out of practice income.'

Around 700 community nurses and therapists set up Central Surrey Health as a social enterprise last year.

Jo Pritchard, joint managing director, said it was vital Government 'provide support to clinically-trained entrepreneurs who want to make a difference to local service provision.'

She said: 'This is a completely new way of doing things which has required us to break new ground.'

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, said social enterprises were 'well worth GPs looking into' as they could help ensure a level playing field with large, corporate providers.

A fledgling social enterprise in Nottinghamshire has so far 'signed up' 17 practices to its cause.

The 'Rushcliffe Mutual' is designed to directly provide nursing, therapy services and will also help practices plan for commissioning roles.

It would have helped us get started

East London Integrated

Care (ELIC), which took more

than a year to establish, has

two purposes.

The first is to support GPs in City and Hackney PCT as they become practice-based commissioners.

This involves helping GPs write business plans, identify how to make savings and develop new care pathways ­ initially in gynaecology, headaches, urology and proctology.

ELIC has also developed consultant-to-consultant protocols.

The second role is directly providing services. It has started with ENT, directly employing a GP with a special interest who is about to start taking referrals from other GPs, but plans to move on to other areas including management of long-term conditions.

Funded by GPs' aspiration payments from the practice-based commissioning DES, the organisation's aim is to provide services at a price that undercuts the Payment by Results tariff.

Although established in City and Hackney, ELIC is now expanding its reach to cover neighbouring Tower Hamlets

PCT, taking in 500,000

patients in total.

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