Tag Archives: Central Surrey Health

Why those driving the creation of public sector mutuals are Investors, not Conservers

By David Bicknell

All those considering setting up public sector mutuals like Hammersmith & Fulham  – and those in the middle of running successful mutual pathfinders such as Central Surrey Health – know the importance of investing in their vision and backing it.

That’s why I liked this piece by Craig Dearden-Philips, who while discussing third sector organisations, makes a distinction between Investors and Conservers.

“My guess though is that the people who make the biggest difference in the world , certainly socially, are almost all on Investors. These people are not ‘born’. They make a choice about how to live. They know that the Investment Principle works – and they live by it.

“Of course, Investment isn’t just a one way street. Investments frequently don’t pay off. In people, in relationships, in business. You get burned as much as you get it right. And investments that are not made judiciously, in people or ventures that are wrong to begin with, are not defensible either. Being investment-minded isn’t about being a soft-heart. But it is about understanding the powerful link between investment and reward and making this, somehow, a feature in the way you operate.”

Wise words.

Without commissioning reforms, no mutuals within five years, only outsourcing companies

By David Bicknell

The government has been put on notice to find ways of making life easier for mutuals – or suffer the consequences.

As Public Finance reports, Patrick Burns, a member of the Cabinet Office Mutuals Taskforce, has warned that without changes in the way outsourcing contracts are awarded, spun-off mutuals could fail within five years.

Burns said: ‘If you don’t do something with the commissioning environment, then in five or ten years time you will not be dealing with mutuals, you will be dealing with [outsourcing companies] Serco, Capita and Virgin. Not that they are bad companies, but it’s not the point.’

Are we sleep-walking towards a Big Six in public services?

By David Bicknell

David Cameron is due to meet the Big Six energy companies to persuade them to rein in their  price increases.

But are we in danger of sleep-walking towards a Big Six in public services too? This piece by the excellent Craig Dearden-Phillips makes some strong points about a ‘possible cartelisation of public services’.

He argues that the government needs to be ‘more categoric about mutuals and  social enterprises. This sector doesn’t really have much chance in a free-for-all. Government commitment to seeing a strong mutual sector, backed by the will to see it done, is what is needed now if the diversity spoken of in the public services white paper is to be more than just a wish-list. Diversity needs to be deliberately created as markets need to be ‘made’, he says.

Incidentally, an earlier piece by Dearden-Phillips refers to the situation in Stroud where a court order was successfully applied for to stop a social enterprise being formed to take forward former NHS services. You can read more about that case here

Much has been written about Central Surrey Health’s bid for a contract that has already prompted much jump-the-gun downbeat thinking about the prospects of mutuals. Baroness Jay was the latest to weigh in on the contract according to  a report last week.

I would suggest that perhaps it’s time for a bit of perspective here. It’s one contract; and it’s not the only contract that Central Surrey Health is bidding for, I’m sure. Business’s  fortunes  don’t depend on one contract; they bid for numbers of pieces of work. They win some; they lose some. Hopefully they win more than they lose.

I would expect that if Central Surrey Health has lost this opportunity – and I have yet to hear any public comment from it that it has – then it is already  looking ahead to the next one – or ones – after that. And then further opportunities too.

Surely the fortunes and prospects for the mutuals sector don’t just rest on the back of one NHS mutual, and one contract. A bit more positivity and perspective wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Cabinet Office tells mutuals future is bright despite Central Surrey Health struggles over NHS deal

By David Bicknell

The Cabinet Office has encouraged would-be mutual and social enterprises to see the government’s plans to open up public services as a positive move that yields new opportunities despite a flagship mutual reportedly losing out on a major contract to a commercial organisation for NHS services.

The Financial Times reported yesterday that Assura Medical has been named as preferred bidder for a five- year contract worth about £90m a year for community health services in Surrey, beating a bid by Central Surrey Health, the flagship social enterprise that runs services in the neighbouring area.

A Cabinet Office spokesman was quoted as saying: “This is not the end for Central Surrey Health; they continue to provide critical services for the people of Surrey. Across the public sector we have started to see the emergence of a new wave of mutuals.

“The government has ambitious plans to support front-line staff who want to form mutual organisations and take control of the services they provide. We are working to ensure that all organisations bid for contracts on a level playing field. We are currently conducting a listening exercise on the Open Public Services white paper, it’s vital that mutual organisations contribute to the discussion.”

The government wants to see the fledgling mutual and social enterprise sector grow to encourage a million staff to leave the public sector and sell services back to local government and the NHS.

In a press release issued by Social Enterprise UK, Peter Holbrook, the organisation’s chief executive encouraged the government to create a financial level playing field and give mutual and social enterprises the chance to gain a foothold in the commercial world:

“If Central Surrey Health, the government’s flagship mutual social enterprise, which has demonstrated considerable success in transforming health services and increasing productivity can’t win, what does this say for the future of the mutuals agenda?

“Central Surrey Health reinvests all the profits it makes locally. It is difficult to imagine how Assura, with shareholders expecting a financial return, could do more to benefit people in Surrey.

“It is not enough for government to open up markets; it needs to create fair markets that benefit society. Some of the financial criteria used in contracts create an unequal playing field in which social enterprises are unable to compete because they may not have the same financial backing as private sector providers.  Unless swift action is taken to address this we will see social enterprises and mutuals lose out to the private sector.

“Public sector workers will be understandably anxious about spinning out from the NHS and setting up a social enterprise on the back of this news. The government needs to take action to reassure them that they will not be operating in markets weighted against them.

It has been argued by unions that mutualisation hides a privatisation agenda with mutuals at risk of losing out to commercial operators as contracts come up for renewal. Central Surrey’s own contract is reported to be up for renewal next year.

Central Surrey Health was the UK’s first social enterprise to leave the NHS and set up as an employee-owned business four years ago. Central Surrey Health is contracted to deliver community nursing and therapy services on behalf of the NHS and other organisations (e.g. Surrey County Council) to the 280,000 population of central Surrey. It is owned by the nurses and therapists it employs, who each own a 1p, not-for-dividend share.

It has been selected by the Cabinet Office to help mentor employee-owned organisations coming out of the public sector. Twelve fledgling public service spin-offs have been chosen by the Cabinet Office to be ‘Pathfinders’ for the rest of the public sector. As mentors, Central Surrey Health will work with and support staff on Pathfinder projects to help them develop sustainable, efficient and pioneering employee-led services. Last November it was also named as the Prime Minister’s first Big Society Award winner.

Hammersmith& Fulham Pathfinder to launch in 2012