Could mutuals and co-operatives be the future of NHS care?

By David Bicknell 

A BBC website article has set a scenario where mutuals and co-operatives could be more widely used in the NHS.

The piece quotes the example of Sandwell Community Caring Trust, and contrasts the spread of social co-operatives in Italy, where  there are more than 7,000, covering  care for the elderly and disabled, to jobs for ex-offenders.

“Each co-operative is made up of paid staff, users and their families, volunteers and investors. Some or all of those put in their own capital to get it off the ground, but what’s absolutely crucial, is the big leg-up that Italian co-operatives get from the system,” the piece says.

“They pay reduced corporation taxes, have access to specialist banks and are linked together in consortia so they can wield more clout when tendering for public contracts.”

The article suggests that one of the biggest challenges faced by co-operatives is recruiting senior managers with good business acumen and a social conscience – not least because co-operatives are often seen as offering insufficient status and salaries.

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