There could be a social enterprise boom in healthcare after the Department of Health gave its blessing to health professionals forming not-for-profit firms.
A guide published by the department last week explains how to set up social enterprises. The DoH promised that primary care trusts would consider all requests to create them.
The guide, Social Enterprise - Making a Difference, says greater control by patients over their treatment budgets can offer more scope for small health firms offering "innovative services".
It promises that staff leaving the NHS can continue in the NHS pension scheme. The initiative will offer healthcare professionals more freedom to manage their own businesses.
"The guidance is extremely encouraging and we've already had a number of inquiries," said Ceri Jones, senior policy officer at the Social Enterprise Coalition.