On Monday evening I represented NFR at reception hosted by the Social Enterprise Coalition.  Not only did this event see the launch of an excellent new report, Health Business: A Guide to Social Enterprise in Health and Social Carebut it was also addressed by the Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt.

She was delighted to hear about NFR’s progress and its supportive work favouring more business-oriented reform.

Mindful that NHS is itself built on an estate that before 1948 encompassed a wide range of independent for and not-for-profit providers, Hewitt and her colleagues are clearly eager to re-discover the mutual and charitable not-for-profit traditions under the rubric of Social Enterprise.

NFR passionately supports this agenda because it clearly has the potential to directly privatise a great deal of NHS provision over the years ahead.

In encouraging the rediscovery of a diverse range of not-for-profit private provision alongside other forms of commerciality people who work on the front line of healthcare will eventually be able to get away from centralised control and top down direction.

To compliment the social enterprise agenda however ministers must now end the outdated practice of national collective bargaining. They should also strengthen customers’ power by allowing a much more liberal health economy in which new and competing forms of advertising and information are made legal. After all, advertising, information and the building of sound business brands in health and social care is what will eventually overcome the parlous problems of consumer ignorance.