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Header image for the current page Embedding social value at scale across Cheshire and Merseyside

Embedding social value at scale across Cheshire and Merseyside

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By Dave Sweeney, Associate Director of Partnerships and Sustainability at Cheshire and Merseyside ICS, Shelley Brough, Head of Integrated Commissioning and Social Value Programme Lead at Cheshire East Council, and Becky Jones, Social Value Lead at NHS Arden & GEM CSU.

Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership (HCP) has embedded social value at scale, building not only on the HCP members’ own responsibilities as anchor institutions, but also working proactively with local communities, businesses and suppliers to extend the reach and impact of their work.

Having laid solid foundations through a Social Value Charter and award scheme, the HCP launched an Anchor Institution Charter and Framework in 2022 to drive and monitor tangible achievements in delivering social value. Alongside this, a Prevention Pledge was developed, which has now been adopted by all 17 trusts across Cheshire & Merseyside (C&M). All elements must form part of the Anchor process.

The challenge

Developing an at scale approach to social value began in 2018, when Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership became a social value accelerator site. Led by Cheshire East Council and the Health and Care Partnership, in conjunction with NHS England, the vision was to weave fairness, sustainability and equality of opportunity into every aspect of the HCP’s work, to deliver best value for residents, and tackle the main causes of ill health and social inequalities at source. What followed was an extensive coproduction effort to produce a social value charter which reflected the needs of local communities and the aspirations of service providers.

Coproducing a vision for social value
Working in partnership with voluntary organisation, Wellbeing Enterprises, the HCP began a programme to coproduce the Social Value Charter based on what social value meant to those living and working in the system. This included engagement with voluntary, charity, faith and social enterprise (VCFSE) organisations to ensure everyone’s voice was heard from the outset. This coproduction approach has become fully embedded in ongoing work.

The resulting Social Value Charter outlines the overall vision for social value, with a Social Value Outcomes Framework to measure social value across the system. The supporting Social Value Award provides a quality framework and ‘mark’ enabling organisations to demonstrate a tangible commitment to the Social Value Charter. The Award lasts for five years and is helping to embed social value principles across the ICS. Recipients benefit from being part of a positive movement to improve sustainability, as well as practical benefits such as attracting and retaining staff, by providing better working conditions and pay, and accessing contracts, by meeting or exceeding the social value commitments now required in most public sector tenders.

Building an anchor community
Cheshire and Merseyside HCP recognised the important role of anchor institutions in embedding change at scale. Anchor institutions are organisations that are firmly embedded in their local area, unlikely to relocate and have a significant stake in their local community. They tend to be big employers of the local community and make significant local procurement and investment decisions.

System partners developed an Anchor Institution Framework in 2021 in collaboration with local businesses, communities and other stakeholders. The Framework’s five pillars are:

1. Purchasing locally and for social benefit
2. Using buildings and spaces to support communities
3. Widening access to quality work
4. Working more closely with local partners
5. Reducing environmental impact.

Member organisations across C&M have committed to a series of principles and priorities, all of which have tangible short and long term benefits for the local community. The principles include paying the real living wage, purchasing and employing people locally in the first instance, and setting out and implementing a Net Zero plan by 2040. As with the Social Value Charter, these principles and priorities were coproduced with businesses, voluntary, charity and faith groups and developed in line with the Marmot principles to help reduce health inequalities.

The first signatories to the Charter were the Chair and Chief Executive of NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board (ICB) – setting a strong signal of senior leadership support and buy-in to the approach. Public, voluntary and private sector organisations have all been encouraged to sign up to the charter, demonstrating their commitment to a local movement to improve quality of life and economic growth for local communities.


Over 80 organisations have signed up to the Social Value Charter, with approximately 70 successfully achieving the Social Value Award.

Fifteen organisations in C&M - across the NHS, voluntary, public and private sector - have signed up to the Anchor Institution Framework, all of whom have a collective interest in seeing their local area improve. A performance dashboard has been developed to enable participants to track and benchmark their performance and evidence the collective impact of the Framework.

A bi-annual Anchor Assembly, chaired by the ICB, was launched on 12 July 2023 – the first of its kind in the country – bringing together senior representatives from all signatories to share progress, learning and next steps, and maintain accountability.

Together, these activities have galvanised individuals and organisations into a movement for change where considering social benefit becomes the norm. Leaders are developing a better understanding of what is important to local communities and the unintended consequences of decisions or processes which could otherwise bring significant benefit.

This blog was originally written for Healthcare Leader and is available here.

You can find out more about Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership's journey on the Social Value Network FutureNHS workspace.

Picture of Becky Jones

Author: Becky Jones |

With experience of working for local authorities, trusts, NHS England, ICBs and the private sector, Becky is able to bring a wealth of knowledge and a holistic approach to social value and sustainability. As Social Value Lead at Arden & GEM, Becky is developing system-wide support packages for the public sector, drawing upon her recent work with social value accelerator site Cheshire and Merseyside ICS. Becky has postgraduate qualifications in law, human rights and human resources and her work has been recognised by multiple award schemes.