Social enterprise spin-outs from the English health service: a Right to Request but was anyone listening?

Working Paper 52

The 'Right to Request' initiative was introduced by the Labour Government in 2008 as a process through which NHS clinicians and managers working in England could seek to develop a social enterprise to deliver Community Health Services. Building on the experiences of the Social Enterprise Pathfinder Programme it addressed key barriers that had been identified such as NHS staff transferring their current pension entitlements and security over the initial contract lengths. It also provided access to the Social Enterprise Investment Fund which could be used to support staff groups in completing their business cases and bringing in external consultancy and support. The Coalition Government continued the scheme, and it is estimated that approximately 10% of the community health services currently provided by Primary Care Trusts are in the process of completing their business cases or have already launched as social enterprises.

The University of Birmingham have been supporting managers and clinicians within the West Midlands who are seeking to develop a social enterprise. In this paper we reflect on their experiences and the response of the local health systems in which they work. We identify that there have been a number of barriers to staff who were keen to pursue this option, and make recommendations for what could be done to encourage and support NHS staff to set up social enterprises in the future. The findings and recommendations are also of relevance for other parts of the public sector in which a 'right of challenge' is being introduced.

Research contacts
Robin Miller and Dr Ross Millar