Delivering social value in health and care

By Nancy Towers, Social Enterprise UK.

The Health and Social Value programme is a three-year programme, funded by the Department of Health and delivered by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) and the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR). What can it tell us about delivering social value in health and care?

The programme is specifically designed to support local areas to deliver and commission for social value in health and care; in this way it aims to support the implementation of the Public Services (Social Value) Act on the frontline.

The programme brings together key players in local healthcare to consider what social value means in their area, how it can be embedded in commissioning and procurement of health services, and how this can lead to improved health outcomes on the ground.

The programme works with senior decision-makers and leaders from Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), local authorities (including those on Health and Wellbeing Boards) and from the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector. Through a combination of facilitated group sessions and external experts, the programme focuses on specific actions: to deliver culture change and the partnerships necessary to create tangible improvements in local healthcare.

We also work to improve VCSE organisations’ understanding of their own impact in terms of social value and increase their knowledge of the commissioning process.

We’re now in the third year of delivering this programme and beginning to develop an understanding of what social value in health care can look like, its potential impact and some of the characteristics that support areas to embed social value in health care procurement.

The importance of cross sector relationships

What our work has shown, in the areas where procuring for social value in health is really being embraced, is a willingness to collaboratively change systems and practice across sectors.

It has also confirmed the essential role that the VCSE sector has to play throughout the process, providing insight into the needs of the community, informing social value policies, co-designing tenders and delivering on social value.

And anecdotally there does seem to be a correlation between the development of trusting and co-operative relationships amongst VCSE, local authority and CCG colleagues and better outcomes for the commissioning of social value.

So what does social value look like in health and care?

There’s no one size fits all approach for what social value should look like in health and care commissioning. The non-prescriptive nature of the Social Value Act, means that each area/commissioning body can develop their own priorities as to what social value means for them and their community.

Both Halton and Salford, areas that have been involved with the programme, looked at what impacted locally on their residents health and well-being and wanted to use social value policies to build the well-being resilience of their communities, taking broader health determinants into account. As a result both areas have looked beyond health and care commissioning and have developed social value policies/pledges that will achieve the greatest social value (in terms of health and wellbeing) for their residents across local authority and CCG procurement. For example a recent Halton construction contract, with social value criteria, was awarded to a company that will provide apprenticeship opportunities and investment for the local community. This delivers on Halton’s social value policies which are designed to combat health inequalities.

It is exciting to think about what the impact on health inequalities could be if all local authorities and CCGs commissioned in this way. It doesn’t have to be a sweeping change, in fact areas we have worked with have felt an incremental approach, trialling social value priorities in one or two contracts, helps build confidence and trust in the process. And it’s often easier when you can see it working somewhere else, which is something this programme hopes to support. From the eight areas we’ve worked with so far, we’re establishing an excellent collection of policies, frameworks, case studies and guides that will be available on our website and the social value hub so that other areas can benefit from the knowledge and learning and be inspired and supported in their own social value journey.

Useful resources

Find out more about the programme here:

Communities count: Four steps to unlocking social value

Have your say on the future of funding and partnership between the VCSE and statutory sectors here

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