Social Value & Health

Health is lagging behind on social value

By and large, the health sector is lagging behind in implementing social value, as Lord Young’s recent review of implementation of the Social Value Act has confirmed.

The reasons for this are numerous but here are some  key ones:

» Many CCGs remain preoccupied with establishing their own internal systems and procedures and social value has taken a back seat.

» Some staff within CCGs are struggling with the concept of implementing social value within a service context that is by its very nature regarded as entirely ‘social’ in purpose.

» Some NHS staff we spoke to are not clear that “social value applies to us”.

» There as many widely divergent interpretations of ‘social value’ as there are types of health bodies.

» Guidance is lacking. While the NHS Sustainable Development Unit has already issued some guidance around social value (see below), and plans to continue to do so, neither Monitor nor the Healthwatch network have so far made any public statement whatsoever regarding social value (and as this video clip indicates, awareness of the social value legislation amongst Healthwatch officials is low).

» Some academic researchers believe that NHS health bodies are leaving social value to local authority public health teams in the belief that social value is their responsibility because it is primarily about ‘social’ issues such as inequality, whereas the NHS’s concern is ‘health’ issues proper.

» Some innovative work has been done in some areas — such as the North West Social Value Foundation, established in 2011 to develop social value in health in the north-west of England — but has not survived the pressures of funding cuts and/or reorganisation. As can often be the case with work to support specific public policy initiatives, doing good work too early can prove fatal.

Update: Recently (March 2016) we added to this work with additional research, including a survey of almost 50 social enterprises involved in tendering for health and social care contracts. In a long post over on the BSSEC blog we report fully on what our survey found, look at some of the latest guidance from Public Health England on social value in health commissioning, and offer some examples of new and emerging practice in social value.