Minority of NHS commissioners making active use of Social Value Act

Fri, 26 May 2017

New research conducted by National Voices and Social Enterprise UK has found that only 13% of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) can clearly show that they are actively committed to pursuing social value in their procurement and commissioning decisions.

The report authors warn that improved commitment to social value is vital to achieving the Five Year Forward View aim of creating a ‘new relationship with people and communities’ and NHS plans to move to more place-based ‘accountable care systems’. The report also highlights that adequate consideration of broader social value when making commissioning decisions is vital to ensuring that the public pound is used as effectively as possible.

The Social Value Act

The Public Services (Social Value Act) 2012 requires commissioners to consider broader social, economic and environmental benefits to their area when making commissioning decisions.

The Act was a response to the risk of competitive tendering focusing solely on cost at the expense of other forms of value. The legislation enables the public sector to commission providers who are smaller and community based, and/or are engaged in social enterprise or not-for-profit activities.

Community-based approaches such as peer support and education for self-management deliver health and wellbeing benefits at low cost. The Social Value Act gives commissioners the flexibility to support the voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations that deliver these services.

Key findings

The researchers found that:

  • 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.
  • Just 25 CCGs (13%) demonstrated what the authors define as ‘highly committed, evidenced and active’ use of the Social Value Act.
  • Weighting procurement for social value, even amongst the most highly committed CCGs, is limited and low. A pass/fail question or a weighting of 2% of the total evaluation was common.
  • Analysis of Sustainability and Transformation Plans found that just 13% mention social value. 

Freedom of Information Requests were submitted to all Clinical Commissioning Groups in England (209 at the time) and received responses from 91% (191).

Download 'Healthy commissioning: How the Social Value Act is being used by Clinical Commissioning Groups'.

Don Redding, Director of Policy at National Voices and joint author of the report, said:

The Social Value Act enables commissioners creatively to shape local non-statutory provision, so as to support people and communities with prevention, managing their health and achieving wellbeing.

This approach is inherent in the Five Year Forward View, the new care models and the general move towards more place-based and population-focused ‘accountable care systems’.

The NHS needs a serious review of how it supports commissioners to have the knowledge, confidence and skills to adopt social value principles and approaches.

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK said:

This is the first research that confirms what we knew anecdotally: that outside of a small number of encouraging examples, the healthcare system's uptake and application of the Social Value Act is currently very low. In this way, Clinical Commissioning Groups are lagging behind local authorities and housing associations in seizing the opportunity that the Act provides.

The healthcare system needs to tap into the reach and knowledge of the social sector, to join up across services and agencies, and to maximise the value from each pound spent. The Social Value Act can help with each of these.

It is now imperative that NHS England, Department of Health & Public Health England give clearer guidance to the system as a whole, and demonstrate social value principles in practice themselves.

In the report, National Voices and Social Enterprise UK recommend that social value to be built into NHS England’s Right Care programme which assists CCGs with commissioning value-based patient pathways. They also call for NHS England, the Department of Health and Public Health England to issue joint guidance on implementation of the Social Value Act.  The authors conclude that there must be closer working between the voluntary sector and NHS organisations to deliver greater social value.

Download 'Healthy commissioning: How the Social Value Act is being used by Clinical Commissioning Groups'.

What is social value?

Social Value refers to wider financial and non-financial impacts of programmes, organisations and interventions, including the wellbeing of individuals and communities, social capital and the environment. The Social Value Act requires those who commission public services to consider how they can secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits for the community. 


For further information contact Andrew McCracken, Head of Communications at National Voices, on  020 3176 0737 or andrew.mccracken@nationalvoices.org.uk.