Finance: Minister urged to widen NHS social enterprise role

The Government must draw up concrete strategies for widening the role of social enterprise service providers in the NHS, according to the chief executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition.

Social enterprise was higher on the political agenda than ever before, but the Government needed to provide more than mere goodwill gestures, said Jonathan Bland at a discussion to launch health secretary Patricia Hewitt's report Social Enterprise in Primary and Community Care.

"The onus is on Labour to deliver strategies and action plans," Bland said. "It is time to put real resources into thinking what can be done."

Bland added that the spirit of innovation offered by social entrepreneurs was not reflected in health service management. "NHS people come up with a new name for something and move all the deckchairs around, but people carry on doing the same thing as before, " he said.

Earlier in the discussion, Hewitt acknowledged that there was a "unique opportunity" within the health and social care services to "grow social enterprise and grow a different kind of approach".

When Francis Davis, chairman of SCA Community Care Services, suggested the need for a "health-based enterprise investment scheme", Hewitt said there was "a lot of capital around".

Bland said social enterprise service providers were "never going to get off the starting blocks" in their bids for NHS contracts unless they had the same access to capital as private groups.

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