The process of transforming a branch of the NHS called Leicester Homeless Healthcare into a social enterprise called Inclusion Healthcare began in 2009 and took almost two years, according to Jane Gray, its director of nursing and development.
"We were very concerned that our practice would be shut down," Gray says. "That was our initial motivation for becoming a social enterprise. We felt it was important that the service continued. We organised a team awayday to discuss it, and we got 100 per cent support from our staff."
The team of 12, which provides specialist healthcare services to homeless people in and around Leicester, including a range of alcohol and drug addiction treatments and advice, then approached the primary care trust and submitted an initial proposal under the 'right to request' - the process introduced by the Labour government that predated the coalition government's 'right to provide'.
The process was challenging, Gray says. She and her co-director, Anna Hiley, had to carry out their day jobs at the same time as they developed the business.
In the early stages, they received no business support and were hampered by a lack of knowledge on the part of the PCT.
"We were asked to submit a business plan, but no one knew what our business plan was supposed to look like," she says. "It could have been 200 pages or written on the back of a fag packet. In the end, we went with something in between."
Gray says the process has been very worthwhile, but difficult. "We're providing a better service than we did in the NHS," she says.
"We can see needs and address them quickly. We also benefit from having a board of independent business people who provide valuable support. That's been a huge advantage compared with having the PCT over you."