How social enterprises are pioneering innovative solutions in health and social care services

carer and patientSocial enterprises have a long history in delivering, supporting and influencing health and social care provision in the UK. The number of social enterprises working in the health and social care sector is growing. They make up over a third of organisations registered to Social Enterprise UK, delivering mental health services, social prescribing, social care, health and wellbeing support, and encouraging individuals to lead a healthy, independent lifestyle.

In recent years, our NHS has come under significant pressure in coping with increased demand on its acute services. The business model adopted by social enterprises allows for organisational autonomy, which has meant that social enterprises have often led the way in pioneering innovative solutions in service delivery, alleviating pressures on our NHS, reducing waiting times and inappropriate hospital admissions. The localisation of services also means that the work led by social enterprises is community focused and meets the tailored needs of its patients as well as diversifying patient choice.

One of the ways social enterprises have achieved this is through their work in social prescribing and leading the fundamental shift towards self-care by addressing mental, physical and social needs outside of the acute setting by de-medicalising social determinants of health and wellbeing. NHS England sees social prescribing as one of the ‘low-cost, high-impact interventions’ that can effectively improve the wellbeing of individuals, help free up GP time and prevent costly hospital stays. Social prescribing schemes help connect patients with non-medical interventions based in their communities that allow them to take a greater role in managing their conditions.

As a National provider of health and wellbeing programmes, based in the West Midlands, striving for innovation has seen Health Exchange collaborate with two technology partners and many more academic partners to test bed and provide clear structured feedback on Health Technology being piloted.

This is an exciting time for us – we have a lot of expertise working with patients with health and wellbeing needs on the ground and we find that we can complement the work of the Health Tech companies by providing them with exciting test-bedding opportunities. One such collaboration is one that seeks to provide technology-based tool for Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners to support young people with a range of anxiety related conditions. This in addition to our test-bedding of the BVI visceral body fat scanning tool created by select Research has really started to move us into a new space.

Jennifer Jones-Rigby, Health Exchange, Chief Operating Officer

The value of having social enterprise in healthcare provision is reflected in the wider discussions on public sector reforms and the governments vision for greater community involvement in, and decentralisation of public services. Recent legislation, such as the Social Value Act 2012, encourages the expansion of social enterprise involvement in public sector by calling them to consider how they will create positive social value in the form of economic, social and environmental wellbeing through their services.

Health Exchange CEO, Ron Owttrim has over 20 years of experience working for healthcare organisations. He says:

Providing innovative health and social care has always found an exciting home for Social enterprise organisations. I have always been passionate about working within the social enterprise community as it provides person-centred care and support and is making a real difference to individuals, their families and the wider community. Working at Health Exchange you are part of a unique movement making a real difference to communities across the country, we should be proud of the part we are playing in tackling health and social problems, supporting an individual’s independence and improving their overall wellbeing.

Isra Ahmed | Health Exchange

  1. A very interesting article and exciting times indeed. Social enterprise is a fantastic business model that seems so well suited to health and social care. The recent innovations that you have mentioned are inspiring.

  2. This is a good thing that you can innovate health and social care services.

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