Bristol Community Health has committed to the future success of its community healthcare services by becoming a social enterprise. Nicola Lowe explains why.

On 1 October 2011 Bristol Community Health became an independent Community Interest Company social enterprise, having participated in the national right to request programme.

We provide a range of over 40 NHS commissioned community healthcare services in and around Bristol, covering a diverse range of specialist clinical care, from community matrons to continence, dietetics to district nursing, physiotherapy to podiatry, walk-in centres to wound care.

Compassionate care is at the heart of everything we do and we are committed to helping people to live life well. Last year our dermatology nursing team won the British Dermatology Nursing Group’s Team of the Year award, and our staff based in the medical team at HMP Eastwood Park won a competition organised by the World Health Organisation as part of the Health in Prisons Project.

In July we launched Bristol’s first mobile MRI clinic, helping to bring greater provision of care into the community and last year one of our nurses won a prestigious Queens Award.

As a community interest company we expect to maintain and grow this level of success. Becoming a social enterprise has allowed Bristol Community Health to embrace new opportunities. A great example of this is the staff shareholding scheme.

Following the transition to social enterprise, all existing staff will be invited to buy a non-transferable £1 share in the organisation and all new staff who joined after 1 October 2011 will automatically receive a £1 share.

By becoming a shareholder staff will gain the right to vote at annual general meetings, giving them a real influence in how decisions and investments are made in the organisation.

The development of a staff council is another exciting development. The Staff Council will meet with Bristol Community Health’s Board, seeking opinions and acting as a voice for staff and shareholders. This project will have a significant influence over future developments and business decisions within the organisation.

These are just a few examples that have been developed within the first few months of becoming a social enterprise. These early developments demonstrate are the fundamental changes the organisation has embraced during the last year, this includes the flexibility to make decisions that are right for the organisation and right for staff and patients.

Becoming a social enterprise has allowed Bristol Community Health to shape its own future. This comes hand in hand with a strong sense of commercial and business awareness that is being driven both from the bottom up and the top down.

And while the new learning and ways of working are being positively driven across the organisation, Bristol Community Health is fundamentally striving to continue providing excellent healthcare services to patients and to help people to live life well.

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