FINANCE: An investment firm has put £1.65m into what it claims to be the first social impact bond in the health service.

Bridges Ventures is putting the money into the bond, issued by Newcastle West Clinical Commissioning Group, which will be used to fund the Ways to Wellness programme to help patients manage long term conditions.

A running track race

The programme encourages non-medical interventions and lifestyle changes among patients

As part of the programme patients will be referred to the programme directly by their GPs, to receive non-medical interventions to encourage lifestyle changes and better self-care. It will operate under an outcomes based contract.

Services will be provided by four voluntary sector organisations which were selected following a formal procurement: Changing Lives, First Contact Clinical, HealthWORKS Newcastle and Mental Health Concern.

It is based on the “social prescribing” model, which Newcastle GP practices have already been using on a smaller scale.

The programme is due to launch this week and will run for seven years. It is estimated to affect about 11,000 patients.

The programme will also receive £2m from the Big Lottery Fund’s commissioning better outcomes fund, and £1m from the Cabinet Office’s social outcomes fund.

Newcastle West CCG chair Guy Pilkington said: “As a local GP, I can see how supporting people to look after themselves in the best way possible needs to be about more than medicine.

“By offering care that looks at social opportunities, encouraging people to get involved in a range of activities available in local communities, we are convinced that people living with longstanding health complaints, are being helped to feel confident and connected.”

Minister for civil society Rob Wilson said: “By working together across government and creating social impact bonds we can confront complex issues – whether it is chronic health conditions or youth unemployment – and save money in the long term as well as improving the quality of life for tens of thousands of people throughout the UK.”

The head of social sector funds at Bridges Ventures, Antony Ross, said the bond is “the result of an unprecedented collaboration between local GPs, Newcastle West CCG and the local voluntary sector”.

Ways to Wellness chair Chris Drinkwater said setting up the programme “has been an exercise in effective partnership working [which] has immense potential for replication”.