Gina Rowlands Managing Director

Why I’m looking forward to sitting next to the CEO of NHS England at Fit For The Future

Bevan Healthcare CIC is a social enterprise which delivers primary care to the homeless, asylum seekers and refugees in Bradford and Leeds. As the NHS turns 70 years old, we are doing exactly what it was set up to do – to ensure that vulnerable people in society do not fall through the cracks.

Despite being incredibly proud to work as part of the NHS, sometimes I think our system doesn’t always understand or acknowledge the underlying inequalities in our country. Sometimes, different parts of government find it hard to work together. But our job is to work for those people who are most in need and help them start to get to grips with the root causes of their challenges, from health to housing, access to education and work. Our mission is to reduce those inequalities.

Unlike other primary care providers, we don’t just provide mainstream services; we have a fully integrated model of care: ‘Crisis to Futures’. This includes a street medicine team, going out to meet people in their own reality. Addressing what they identify as their immediate need, not ours. We are really part of our local community. But part of the challenge for us is that our work is affected by national or even international decisions made far away, from immigration and asylum rules to NHS reform.

So that’s one reason I am looking forward to sitting not only alongside other health and care pioneers like Jo Pritchard and Victor Adebowale at Social Enterprise UK’s upcoming health and care conference but most of all, next to the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens.

Here at Bevan Healthcare, we are leaders, clinicians, entrepreneurs, health professionals, advocates, social entrepreneurs and part of the NHS. I wear all these hats! So at the conference we will be looking at how social enterprises across the country can better rise to this challenge. How can we better manage recruitment and retain our talented workforce? At Bevan, we find that our reputation helps us attract good people – our reputation for innovation and commitment helps us attract the best staff. We also try to recruit people based on their attitude and not on their education. In fact, we know there is great value in having people with lived experience who have been previously homeless, refugees or asylum seekers, for instance, as part of the team.

We’ve been lucky enough to pick up a few national awards over the past few years but I am especially proud that the Care Quality Commission rated us outstanding for caring, responsiveness, well-led, safety, and effectiveness. But it’s not just us picking up this recognition. The evidence suggests that social enterprises are overwhelmingly picking up Good and Outstanding ratings. So at the conference we want to explore how we get NHS leaders to pay more attention to our success. We’re not only delivering great quality care but also breaking even or reinvesting profits back into our services while lots of other parts of the system are in deficit. Sitting next to Simon Stevens will be an opportunity to get this message across, but we also need to think about how we make the case more widely to other policymakers and politicians.

Bevan Healthcare has worked hard to develop our strong partnerships with the local voluntary sector, faith groups, businesses, education system and with our commissioners. We work well with our CCG but of course, it’s not always easy and we know others find it hard too. So SEUK’s event will look at how we can improve our local relationships. As social enterprises, I feel we have a duty to share our experiences and our lessons with others. One of the best aspects of these kind of events is having the chance to catch up with peers who understand what it’s like to wear your shoes and from who you can renew your energy and enthusiasm.

But of course, we are also wrestling with health reforms, with STPs and the emerging threat that social enterprises might somehow get sucked back into the NHS with all the bureaucracy and inefficiencies that we were so pleased to leave behind. While we will hear from system designers I also want to hear from system disruptors who are leading the way on integration, yes, but without being swallowed whole.

This summer, the NHS turns 70. Here’s a chance, then, to help make it fit for the next 70. We need to show others how our collective commitment, quality, viability and sustainability is very much part of the answer. And all the time, we need to stay focused on helping those who need us the most.

Gina Rowland is the Managing Director of Bevan Healthcare CIC, a social enterprise delivering primary care to the homeless, asylum seekers and refugees in Bradford and Leeds. She is a SEUK Honorary Fellow and the NHS Health and Care’s Top 70 Stars.


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