With so many demands and rapidly changing priorities, delivering Social Value within NHS services can seem like an overwhelming challenge. In an organisation of over 1.3m staff, split into different trusts and partnerships, commissioned from various sources, and delivering free care for communities up and down the country, it can be hard to see where to begin.
The Social Value Act 2012 introduced new rules for commissioners of public services, which includes the NHS. In January 2021, an additional compliance policy was added to the Act along with a Social Value Model, which together seek to address Social Value from a procurement point of view.
These documents have provided a framework for how to implement and measure Social Value activity, yet, as with so many high-level strategic documents, the key is in their interpretation and implementation.
Those working day to day in public services need to be able to make sense of what Social Value means for them and how they can have a more positive influence within their roles for the concept to become embedded within staff culture.
Social Value activity doesn’t have to mean starting afresh
The reality of healthcare services is that they are already delivering countless schemes and projects that can be classed as Social Value activity, because the very nature of what the NHS does is to help people. From working with voluntary groups, improving inclusivity, empowering people to stay well in their communities with outreach services and reducing waste, there is a lot of fantastic work already taking place; however, it is not all being measured, recorded and reported cohesively within the remit of Social Value.
Measurement is a tricky subject for many organisations embarking on their Social Value journey. We work with and support a variety of organisations, within both the public and private sectors, to understand what good can look like and to create metrics that help them demonstrate their positive social impact.
By way of example, Medway Community Healthcare, which is a community interest company that provides NHS services in the Medway and Swale region, publishes an annual Social Value Report which highlights this issue well. The report contains many excellent examples of activities that are having a positive impact. Some of these initiatives will have been taking place already, however they may not previously have been considered or classed as Social Value.
Being able to recognise the relevant types of activities that create and have a social impact, and group them within this remit, is one of the first steps, before going on to measuring and calculating that activity’s effect and ultimately being able to report and demonstrate your organisation’s influence on the communities and world around it. From this recognition, categorisation, tracking, measuring and reporting process, the work on improving and creating new positive social impact opportunities and activities can truly start.
There’s still a lot to do
Despite the Social Value Act coming into effect in 2012, the Healthy Commissioning report published by National Voices and Social Enterprise UK four years ago showed that only a minority of NHS Commissioners were making use of the legislation. All 209 Clinical Commissioning Groups in the country were surveyed, with a 91% response rate – 43% of respondents either had no policy on the Social Value Act; were not aware of a policy; or had a policy in some stage of development.
Today, the number of organisations taking action is growing. There are a number of NHS organisations pledging their commitment to delivering Social Value and reporting on achievements to date. Earlier this year, Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust published a Social Value Pledge, which states that “up to 90% of a person’s health is determined not by the quality of healthcare they receive but by a host of other social, environmental and economic factors…”. This viewpoint is vital, where the organisation recognises that it is more than just healthcare services – it is also a contributor to the community, providing jobs, advice, impacting the environment and interacting with local businesses, charities and groups.
Of course, the ongoing pandemic provides a whole new aspect to the challenge of delivering Social Value, because of the huge demands felt by the NHS. With budget cuts in some services, staff shortages, a backlog of waiting lists and the continued management of Covid-19 to manage, it’s easy to see how Social Value can slip off the radar. Even seemingly small things like the sharp increase in single use equipment, such as masks and other PPE, will have had a huge impact on waste levels over the last 18 months. And yet the environmental risks cannot be ignored! There are solutions and alternatives that can be explored and implemented.
There has been clear progress in some areas of the NHS, and yet, effective recognition and measurement of Social Value across the whole organisation clearly still has a way to go. Progress made in the next few years to establish clear and accessible protocols for services and staff working at every level will be vital in ensuring the success of embedding effective Social Value delivery and measurement across the NHS. It may appear as a Mount Everest of a challenge, yet even Mount Everest isn’t insurmountable with the right support, planning and tools.
A concept we often discuss with clients, contacts and partners is that delivering real Social Value is a journey. It’s forever, and over time it will evolve as your organisation and service develops and as people’s needs change. There is no one goal we are all working towards, except that of getting everyone on board with Social Value, to create positive impact that benefits people, our planet and our overall prosperity.
Our approach is to work with clients to find the most appropriate framework for their organisation, and we’ve developed tools and methodologies to enable us to do this. This includes our bespoke AccSL® suite of software, which encompasses AccSL® Finance, AccSL® Carbon, and AccSL® Social modules.
If you’d like to know more about how Accordant could work with you in your Social Value journey, please do get in contact.
By Darren Piper: Managing Director