Health is one of the fastest growing sectors for social enterprise, not only because it can offer a new way to tackle public spending cuts, but because it can be innovative. Creative thinking is key for the Expert Patients Programme (EPP), a thriving Community Interest Company that gives people more control over their conditions through cognitive therapy courses.
It has made a particular difference to people with long-term illnesses, such as diabetes, arthritis or respiratory problems, by teaching them how to self manage and monitor their own symptoms. “It’s giving patients more control,” says Renata Drinkwater, Chief Executive (interim). “Courses like these are proven to make a difference. They boost confidence and, in some cases, can delay the onset of other conditions. They also have other benefits, like reducing the amount of times the patient needs to go into hospital or use Accident and Emergency.”
EPP began in 2002 as a large-scale Department of Health research project, using a programme licensed from Stanford University, to find out how to put patients at the centre of their health care. Initially funded by government, the project was devolved away to become a CIC and grow.
To date, EPP CIC have either delivered or supported other providers to deliver more than 5,000 EPP courses to over 70,000 participants. It is funded through contracts with NHS primary care trusts and other commissioning bodies across England. Many of its service users go on to become accredited tutors, some paid and some volunteers.
EPP was formed as a Community Interest Company in April 2007, after being given funding and assets by the Department of Health to help it get “on the road”.
Since then it has gone from strength to strength, growing from a £1m turnover company just three years ago to a £7.5m turnover now. “Being a CIC allows us to be more flexible,” explains Drinkwater, “ We run along very efficient lines just like any other business, but as a CIC, there’s no question that our surplus profits get reinvested. It gives us complete focus on what we want to do, which is helping people with their long-term health conditions. As a CIC we value partnership working, and work closely with key stakeholders in the NHS, social care and voluntary sectors, to support delivery of self-management programmes across the country to diverse communities.”
There are also big plans for the future as new products and programmes come on stream in the coming years to take EPP fully nationwide. “We have just got a super model,” Drinkwater says, “EPP shows how a good, innovative idea can create a business with real efficiency and results.”
||The Expert Patients Programme
||CIC limited by shares
||Research project started in 2002, became a CIC in April 2007
|Community interest statement
||Our community of interest is all people living with long-term conditions and we operate as a Community Interest Company as an expression of our focus in providing services that meet their needs.
Find out more about The Expert Patients Programme