New research conducted by National Voices and Social Enterprise UK, 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 authors of Healthy Commissioning 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’. It is also vital to making sure the public pound is used as effectively as possible.

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 solely focusing 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.

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 209 Clinical Commissioning Groups in England and received responses from 191, a response rate of 91%.

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 call for 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 Act. Finally, the authors also call for the voluntary sector and NHS organisations to work more closely together to deliver greater social value.


For further information contact the SEUK press office at, on 020 3589 4950 or email

Download the full report here

National Voices is the coalition of charities that stands for people being in control of their health and care

Social Enterprise UK together with its members is the voice for social enterprise in the UK. We do research, provide information and tools, share knowledge, build networks, raise awareness and campaign to create a business environment where social enterprises thrive.  Our members range from local grass-roots organisations to multi-million pound businesses.

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.