Public Service Mutual Spotlight #1: East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH)

It’s been a winning 12 months for East Coast Community Healthcare, who received several prestigious award nominations as well as beat the competition to deliver a 7-year, £207m core contract that starts in April.

We spoke to Head of Social Enterprise Development, Peter Gosling, to understand more about the secret to their success.

ECCH is a community health provider and social enterprise, special because over 80% of its employees have opted to be shareholders and have a significant say in how the organisation is run. As a community interest company, they don’t take dividends, but surplus is reinvested to benefit the local community.

It’s really working: in a recent survey, an impressive 96% of service users say they’d recommend ECCH, and 100% would recommend their pioneering Out of Hospital teams. Their work serves over 70,000 users and they are one of the largest employee-owned organisations in the UK.

We can say this with certainty: ECCH make a huge positive difference to people’s lives, which is why we wanted to make them the first organisation we cover in the twelve spotlights we’ll be shining a light on this year.

Baxendale: How does delivering community health services as a social enterprise lead to better outcomes and a high level of quality care for your communities and patients?

ECCH: Many ways, but the main ones are…

Baxendale: Can you tell us about ECCH’s new ‘Culture’ programme?

ECCH: We realised that intentionally shaping the culture of the organisation could help us achieve our goals for the people we are serving and make us an even better place to work. We identified four signature behaviours:

  1. We Listen, We Learn, We Lead (To be leaders in wellbeing, agile and innovative)
  2. Work Together, Achieve Together (In teams, across ECCH, with our Partners, with our communities)
  3. My Responsibility, My Accountability (My willingness to respond and take ownership of the outcome)
  4. Be cost conscious and respect our resources (Creating opportunities to help someone in need with the resource we have)

We look for ways to positively reinforce these behaviours within the organisation, and get feedback every four months to see what progress we’re making towards embedding them. It’s opened up opportunities to acknowledge the best in our staff and have open discussions about important things we might not otherwise have talked about, as well as encouraging them to be active partners in developing the best organisational culture to support the delivery of the best care. As Peter Drucker said, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’.

Baxendale: How important is employee ownership to your work and what’s the best thing about there being an element of staff voice in your work?

ECCH: EO is a key part of our DNA as an organisation. It increases the staff team’s sense of ownership of ECCH and its mission. We notice that new staff mention they were attracted to our culture and ethos, so it really helps recruitment and retention. We were highly commended in the recent Employee Ownership Awards for ‘Employee Ownership culture’ and runners up for ‘Public Service Mutual of the Year’, which was a great affirmation of the dedication of our staff. In light of our staff ownership, high levels of engagement and our culture programme, we are finding other organisations want to talk to us about how they too can be innovative.

Regarding the nuts and bolts, every member of staff has the opportunity to purchase a share in the organisation for £1. As we are a not-for-profit organisation, they don’t receive a dividend. Two members of staff are elected to serve for a three-year term as Staff Directors with full voting rights on the Board. The Staff Directors chair a monthly Shareholder Council, which meets to discuss matters affecting the direction and performance of the organisation and to provide their input to the Board and senior management. The Shareholder Council has a quarterly meeting with the Board. Shareholders also have a real say in the appointment of the Chair and non-executive directors.

Baxendale: What advice might you give to other organisations considering leaving the public sector to pursue their own visions?

We would definitely do it again and don’t regret it at all. It’s not an easy journey but then I don’t think any organisation working in health and social care is finding life straightforward. Be clear about your strengths and what you are good at, set clear goals and build on that. Keep learning from others and build good relationships with partners. Trust your staff, engage with them, give them responsibility and build the best organisational culture you can.

If you’ve been inspired by ECCH’s story and want to explore other models of delivery including becoming a social enterprise, speak to robin.naudi@baxendale.co.uk or call us. There is funding available now to support the exploration of alternative delivery models

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