UK Government

Department of Health (National): Thousands of frontline NHS staff take control of £900 million of services

Press Release   •   Nov 17, 2010 11:19 GMT

Thousands of frontline NHS staff are taking control of the services they deliver in a drive to transform patient care and improve health outcomes, Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley announced today.

Thirty-two projects will form the third wave of NHS organisations that want to set up social enterprises, through the NHS 'Right to Request' scheme that gives public sector workers the opportunity to become their own bosses.

Unveiling the third wave proposals today, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley also announced an additional £4.4million will be made available through the Department's Social Enterprise Investment Fund. This money will support the successful Right to Request schemes and encourage others who wish to become social enterprises.

By becoming social enterprises, clinical staff gain the freedom to make their own decisions about the services they deliver locally, allowing them to be more responsive to their patients' needs. 

Today's announcement of the third wave of proposals means that, since it was set up in 2008, 'Right to Request' has generated a total of 61 innovative proposals from staff to take over the services they provide.

These proposals will transfer an estimated £900m of services and almost 25,000 NHS staff into the social enterprise sector.

The proposals in this third and final wave span nine of the 10 Strategic Health Authorities and include services like primary care access for the vulnerable and homeless, sexual health services, and support for bereaved children and families. 

Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley said:

"I am encouraged by the enthusiasm with which NHS frontline staff have embraced the 'Right to Request' scheme. This represents a major milestone in the delivery of the White Paper commitment to create the largest and most vibrant social enterprise sector in the world. We want to empower millions of public sector workers to become their own boss and help them to deliver better services.

"This is about a fundamental power shift, taking power from Whitehall and placing it in the hands of frontline staff who know best the needs of their communities. This is what the Big Society is all about."

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said:

"By becoming their own bosses staff are free to exercise their clinical leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Instead of being frustrated by red-tape they can react in real time to unmet local needs, not just improving health outcomes but contributing to the wider regeneration of the communities they serve.

"And because social enterprises share the same public ethos as the NHS, all surplus is reinvested back into the communities they serve meaning the most efficient use of public funds."

Chief Executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition Peter Holbrook said:

"It is incredibly encouraging that so many organisations will soon be operating as social enterprises as a result of the Right to Request scheme, transforming the way that health services are delivered to local communities in England.

"Owned by staff and patients, these social enterprises will have the autonomy to deliver services that truly meet the needs of their local populations, and bureaucracy will be replaced by an ability to be flexible and responsive - the end result being quality local services for patients.

"For the broader social enterprise movement this is a significant milestone, and clearly demonstrates the positive role that social enterprises can play in a sector as vital as healthcare to our society."

Notes to editors

For further information contact the Department of Health press office on: 020 7210 5329

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will today (16 November) speak at the Guardian Social Enterprise Summit in Central London to launch the third wave of 'Right to Request'.

A social enterprise is a business where surpluses are principally reinvested in the business or in the community rather than deriving profits for shareholders. There are approximately 62,000 working across all sectors in the UK and in excess of 6,000 provide health and social care services.

Through the NHS 'Right to Request' scheme, primary care trusts were obliged to consider requests from staff wishing to set up a social enterprise. The first two waves of 'Right to Request' projects include a range of services that vary in value from about £315,000 to £50 million and the number of staff involved in each project ranges from five to 1,200. There are currently 29 Right to Request schemes running.

Funding and support for people considering pursuing social enterprise is available through the Department of Health's Social Enterprise Investment Fund (SEIF). The additional £4.4m of revenue announced today will help support the 'Right to Request' proposals come to fruition and encourage others who would like to spin out health and social care services into a social enterprise.

The SEIF is managed on the Department of Health's behalf by The Social Investment Business in partnership with Local Partnerships. More information about the SEIF can be found at

The third wave projects include a variety of services offered by PCTs in Nottingham, Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Hertfordshire, Luton, Suffolk, Croydon, Hillingdon, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Oldham, Salford, Bolton, Sefton, Liverpool, Buckinghamshire, Isle of Wight, Surrey, Bath and North East Somerset, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Plymouth, Torbay, Dudley, Bradford, Kirklees, Sheffield and Barnsley.

This Right to Request scheme has now closed for applications in line with the requirement that PCTs must separate commissioning and provision of community services by April 2011.

More information about the social enterprise programme can be found


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