Social businesses told to think like corporates do

Social enterprises must think more like businesses if they are to succeed in the healthcare sector, according to a joint report by Hempsons Solicitors and the Social Enterprise Coalition.

The study, entitled Healthy Business and released to coincide with the forum, features case studies of 12 social enterprise healthcare providers, including Sandwell Community Caring Trust, Central Surrey Health and Turning Point.

"Third sector groups will not be able to deliver their social values unless they are as fit for purpose as businesses, so they have to grapple with business issues and be prepared to take risks," said Ian Hempseed, the report's author, who is partner and head of the social enterprise team at Hempsons.

"Because there is a pool of potential providers, social enterprises need to show that they can compete in the market and can bring advantages that others will not supply."

The report found that one such benefit is the ability of coop-style social enterprises to foster high staff morale, which can, in turn, lead to higher than average staff-retention rates and good continuity of service.

Matthew Walsham, the report's co-author and senior policy officer at the coalition, said that, if enterprises were to be incorporated fully into the health service, NHS staff would have to change the way they work.

"Social enterprise can be a fantastic way of doing things," he said. "But there's going to have to be a culture change to achieve real results."

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