Should the NHS Be the 'Biggest Social Enterprise in the World'?

Posted: 14 March 2011, in Blog

Here be Giants

The Sunday Times Public Appointments Section recently carried 6 Chair posts for the NHS in South West England. It is interesting that all 6 posts (couple of days a week circa £20k plus p.a.) are deemed to be for social enterprises.

The English NHS has grabbed the CIC model and intends to reform its organisational structures accordingly. I may be wrong but I recall the original CIC debate suggesting that CICs would not be used to deliver large scale public services. I guess Andrew Lansley is following through with his vision of the NHS in England being the ‘largest social enterprise sector in the world’. How do you feel about that? I believe that social enterprises have to be independent of the State – am I wrong or have I been overtaken by events?

Meanwhile, The Herald details how Glen Oaks HA has become the first Scottish HA to get into the Bond market – borrowing over the long term by using the value of their housing stock as security. Expect more HAs to follow as the Scottish Govt is pitching this model to Pension Funds for their support. The idea is that stable investments over the long term suit both parties with investors getting guaranteed returns and HAs getting debt refinancing opportunities and opportunities to invest in refurbishment programmes and building new homes.

I’m delighted by this because access to long term capital will help HAs achieve their goals. I’m hopeful that they will deepen their engagement with other social enterprises and demonstrate that they understand how local economies can be transformed by social entrepreneurship. Perhaps the Coalition should promote the idea of a “National Commonwealth” of Social Enterprises with huge anchor organisations like HAs declaring their intention to support smaller social enterprises get started and gain critical mass. After all, they are not merely in the house building business; they are in the community building business. Paraphrasing Clinton, that means “it’s the (local) economy stupid”.

I’m still troubled by the State adopting our models and structures (e.g. Edinburgh and Glasgow Leisure and Culture services) but faced with an irresistible force how should we respond?

Is there a possibility that public sector social entrepreneurs (if that is what they are) can be educated and trained in the full nature of social entrepreneurship –not just the legal structures? I respect the various missions and different bottom lines that motivate social entrepreneurs but I can’t see what motivates these public sector types other than opportunism. Here is a thought, lets get the leading Scottish public sector (social) entrepreneurs into a room and invite them to join us – after all who else is going to keep them right?


NOTE: This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition.