Business Model: Expert Patient Programme

The Expert Patient Programme is a community interest company that was set up to train people with chronic conditions to manage their own care.

EPP was created by the NHS in 2006 to replace patient training services in individual strategic health authorities. It has grown quickly, according to Colin Norman, finance director at EPP.

"In its first year, the business turned over £650,000," he says. "But that figure is growing by about 100 per cent a year. We're aiming to turn over about £5m next year.

"We expect that to continue for some time, because almost a quarter of the UK population has a chronic condition, and many of them would benefit from our courses. In the short term, we believe the introduction of personal budgets for people with long-term care will be a real opportunity."

Norman says EPP has made a good case for turning NHS services into businesses. "We've been able to get considerable efficiencies out of converting into a company," he says. "We've been able to reduce the number of staff and involve the patients much more in the delivery of services."

But despite its growth, the business is still some way away from breaking even, Norman says. It had initial funding of about £16m to subsidise the early years, and receives fees for the training it does from primary care trusts.

"We're introducing economies of scale and reducing inefficiencies," says Norman. "We're predicting that we'll break even in two years."

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