NHS Hull has become the first primary care trust to complete the transfer of its provider arm into a stand alone social enterprise.

Around 1,200 NHS staff have now formally transferred to the community interest company City Health Care Partnership – becoming shareholders in it.

Hull – chosen as one of 26 social enterprise “pathfinders” in 2007 –is one of a handful of PCTs going down the social enterprise route under the previous government’s plans to separate commissioners from community providers. NHS Kingston is due to complete a similar move in October.

NHS Hull chief executive Chris Long said the PCT had decided to carry on with its plans, first formulated in 2006, despite continuing uncertainty over how the Transforming Community Services programme will continue under the collation government.

He told HSJ the social enterprise model was “bang in line” with prime minister David Cameron’s ideas for a “big society”. He added: “Most people are heading towards the vertical integration model. I think that’s a mistake.”

However, he acknowledged the social enterprise route “hasn’t always been easy”. The Hull plans became a target for the Unite union in March, which launched a campaign calling on the population to back its attempts to block the social enterprise.

Mr Long said the local branch of the union had previously been “quite receptive” to the social enterprise plan until the regional level of the organisation had got involved.

But he thought his staff had mostly supported it, highlighting the unrushed approach to the move and good communication as important factors.

He said: “It needs the message to be continually repeated on why we are doing this. Time invested in communicating the purpose is vital.”