30 January 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor
Health secretary Patricia Hewitt has urged NHS purchasers to consider buying goods and services from social enterprises.
In the introduction to a new guide published by the Social Enterprise Coalition, she says: "Buying goods and services from social enterprises is a fantastic way to achieve greater social and environmental returns on the money the NHS spends. I urge everyone in the NHS with responsibility for procurement decisions to take a look at this and think about how social enterprises might help them procure in a more sustainable way."More for your Money - a guide to procuring from social enterprises for the NHS
was produced in partnership with the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency. It illustrates how a range of NHS bodies have benefited from using such organisations and explains how buyers can help social enterprises compete for contracts.
It says: "This guide does not suggest that social enterprise should have an unfair advantage over other suppliers in the bidding process. Rather, that they have a valuable part to play within the context of a diverse range of suppliers."
It highlights examples of other trusts benefiting from the use of such organisations, including South London and Maudsley NHS Trust which said working with food supplier Scotch Bonnet not only enables it to source local products and improve the choice and quality of food, but it also means money is reinvested into the community.
Others commented on social enterprises offering a more flexible approach than some other private sector companies in the market and how using some such groups can help trusts achieve environmental targets.
Jonathan Bland, chief executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition, the UK's national group or social enterprise, said: "Last year the NHS spent more than £17 billion on goods and services. There is the potential for this money to make a significant contribution to community regeneration, public health and the environment."
The guide will officially be launched on February 13 alongside the Sustainable Development Commission's Good Corporate Citizenship
toolkit, a self-assessment model to help NHS organizations measure their contribution to the local community, economy and environment.
Free copies of the guide can be downloaded now at: www.socialenterprise.org.uk/procurement
or by calling the Social Enterprise Coalition on 020 7793 2323.