Social enterprise to help heal "strains and stresses" of the NHS

Social entrerpeneurs rallied against a backdrop of NHS budget requests, cut backs and increasingly pressurised services at the "Fit for the Future" conference hosted by SEUK last week.

Health and social care social enterprises must modernise, mobilise and collaborate to help ease the core issues facing the sector, urge leading figures from national health and social enterprise bodies. 

Budget gaps, lengthening waiting times and an ageing population are among the key challenges facing the NHS and other health and social care providers. 

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, told participants at the ‘Fit for the future’ conference in London that this is a “critical time” for the health and social care landscape. 

“There are unprecedented challenges that even those of us who have worked in health and social care for the last 15 or so years have not experienced,” he said.

Last week NHS England caused a media frenzy by calling on Government to allocate an extra £8bn funding to the NHS budget in their Five Year Forward View report. 

The report – which was put together by six national bodies including NHS England and Public Health England – detailed a range of models to reinvent the way key services are delivered. For example, council-tax discounts could be offered to encourage more members of the public to engage in voluntary work. 

10 million people in the UK are over the age of 65 and this figure is set to increase by 5.5 million in 20 years time according to research by parliament. This increase has an impact on health and social care providers and the NHS specifically – with the average NHS spending for retired households being nearly double that of non-retired households.  

Baroness Dorothea Glenys Thornton, a Labour and Co-operative member of the House of Lords, said: “Even conservative politics – and that’s conservative with a small and a capital ‘c’ – agrees that the NHS and care services are facing unprecedented challenges."

Speaking to an audience of social enterprise leaders from the health sector, Baroness Thornton said: “We need to work with allies, for example the Institute of Government. We need to work with those who influence how government runs. We need to think about the academic institutions, the think tanks that influence how government organises itself.”

One of the key roles social enterprise plays in health and social care is through housing associations and other housing support services. There are currently 147 organisations in the housing sector on the RBS SE100 Index which have a combined turnover of just under £9bn. 

Dr Anne Marie Connolly, director of health equity and impact at Public Health England, said: “As a nation we have a big gap in life expectancy across the nation.” According to the Office for National Statistics males in the most advantaged areas of England can expect to live 19.3 years longer in ‘Good’ health than those in the least advantaged areas and for females this was 20.1 years.

“Housing is a key factor within this. No matter where you live, there are elements of this that are impacting on your health. There are still a lot of people living in housing with problems with temperature, with damp, for example,” Dr Connolly said. 

“Strains and stresses” are already visible throughout the health system said Holbrook. 

“These pressures have put the NHS front and centre of the political debate right now – alongside immigration and other issues – but certainly the NHS is set to be a major part of the political campaigns as we head towards the general election next year,” he continued.

For those in the social enterprise sector there is a renewed urgency to promote innovative ways of delivering health and social care services to solve a growing health and social care crisis.

Photo credit: London Ambulance Service