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Leading the way through social enterprise

The Social Enterprise Pathfinder Programme evaluation

Leading the way through social enterprise

The Social Enterprise Pathfinder Programme evaluation

In 2006, the Department of Health established the Social Enterprise Pathfinder

Programme to better understand social enterprise in health and social care. The

programme followed 26 social enterprises and examined what factors appear to be

early indicators for success and outlined the challenges in delivering health and

social care services.

Tribal Newchurch were appointed to Ingredients for Success
carry out an evaluation of the Social
The evaluation shows that there are a
Enterprise Pathfinders over a two year
number of factors that appear to be early
period. The evaluation, which used a
indicators for the success of a social
mixed methodology (qualitative research,
enterprise. These are:
interviews, workshops, focus groups and
statistical analysis) has produced a wide • Strong leadership and management
range of findings and learning points that capabilities
should help inform the development of • A clearly articulated social mission
social enterprises in health and social care. • The ability to cope with uncertainty, risks
and challenges
A complete version of the evaluation can be
• G P/Clinical support
found at
• PCT and/or local authority support
• An appropriate size (large organisations
were perceived to have a higher chance
This document highlights some of the key of failure)
findings of the evaluation, which we hope • The ability to offer a range of services but
will be helpful for those who are currently with a clear focus on target service users
involved in setting up a social enterprise to • Strong community links and engagement
deliver health and social care services. • Sufficient revenue for 2 – 3 years and
where appropriate, capital funding
Whilst these ingredients do not all need to be
present, the more that can be demonstrated,
the greater the likelihood of a social
enterprise being recognised, supported and
The evaluation also establishes that support
of the PCT, clinical leads, staff and local
population is crucial. Unless all of these are
aligned and a supportive relationship exists,
there is less potential for a social enterprise
to succeed.
Benefits of the Social
Enterprise Model
Delivering health and social care
services through social enterprise has a
number of benefits, such as:
• The ethos and values of the social
enterprise model are a catalyst
for improving choice, equality and
access to services and enable
services to be delivered in an
innovative and efficient manner
• Social enterprises are not seen
as being commercially driven and
are often seen as more acceptable
to both service users and staff,
especially those that are in the NHS
Key Challenges
• The benefits of the social enterprise
• Social enterprise is a model which
model are not always clear, not only to
appears to be valued by PCTs.
potential commissioners, but also to staff
and stakeholders
• New social enterprises may be at a
competitive disadvantage in terms of not
having the same legal and HR back up
as commercial providers
• Although the social enterprise model
appears to fit well with staff principles,
the potential loss of NHS branding and
the feeling of no longer being within the
“NHS family” is a concern
• Understanding the issues around
pensions. The issue most commonly
mentioned by the pathfinders was
pensions, where there is a need for
clarity and a resolution to the differences
faced by social enterprises as
employers, when employing both staff
TUPE’d over from the NHS and other
staff not entitled to the NHS pension
• Timing – the timescale required to
establish a social enterprise is often
underestimated. A social enterprise can
take between 3 and 5 years to establish
and trade.
Successes and Achievements of the Programme
The evaluation found that the Social Enterprise Pathfinder Programme as a whole has produced
some notable successes and achievements, with many of the Pathfinders exceeding their

Case Study
Willow Bank Partnership Community Interest
Company (Willow Bank CIC)
Willow Bank CIC is a social enterprise in Stoke-on-
Trent, led by an integrated team drawn from the
health, social care and third sectors. The company’s
first surgery, Willow Bank Surgery, opened in Meir
in September 2009 and will be followed by surgeries
in Hanley and Middleport. The surgeries will offer
patients primary care services at more convenient
times as GPs will be available from 8am to 8pm on
weekdays as well as on Saturday mornings.
All three facilities are being opened because of a GP
shortage in the city. Each GP in Stoke-on-Trent currently
has approximately 200 more patients on their list than the
national average.
The new practices will offer first class primary care
services as well as taking the pressure off existing
surgeries and allowing GPs to spend more time with their
patients. The company offers general medical services
and one stop care, with a particular focus on vulnerable
groups including lone-parent families, local homeless
people and BME communities.
Being a community interest company allows Willow Bank
to develop non-clinical services that patients would not
otherwise have access to, such as services for the local
homeless and support and counselling for those with drug
and alcohol problems.

For more information on social enterprise:


The Department of Health acknowledges the permission granted to it by Tribal Newchurch to

reproduce the copyright material in this leaflet from the Social Enterprise Pathfinder Programme
Evaluation, published in September 2009.

Gateway reference number 13722