Coping with Cancer North East
The journey so far
In a first phase of support on the Enterprise Development Programme the organisation received some additional capacity to free up the Chief Executive to undertake some market research in terms of selling services to private sector organisations. This phase resulted in some really useful insight for future plans. But the overall view from the commercial world was that the Charity would not be viewed as commercially ready to sell services to corporates. Through this important feedback, it became evident the organisation was attempting to reach a new market with a new service and this would be extremely tough. Therefore, instead, on review the organisation felt a stepped approach of initially developing new services with existing markets would be more achievable. Practically this meant trying to position the organisation effectively to offer its revised cancer support and care services via NHS commissioned services.
In a second phase, the grant was utilised to support additional staff capacity, both in terms of (i) giving the Chief Executive time to build relationships across local NHS structures and (ii) employing a Quality Assurance Manager to develop processes and systems to become more ‘contract ready’. In addition, staff training was funded to further ensure the organisation was a more credible responder to tender opportunities.
Maggie Bailey, CEO, reflected that “EDP has offered a, relatively small ‘stone’, but one which has had a big ripple effect. It has allowed me to spend quality time within the NHS and establish new working relationships at strategic and tactical levels throughout the whole region. This has been invaluable to the organisation as it would not exist in the future unless it had made these changes. We were only delivering in hospitals and most of this income/work came through clinical staff at operational level. Most of this funding has now been withdrawn. It is only new income from managers and strategic NHS staff that has ensured the sustainability of the charity at the size it is currently and will help grow service delivery within the NHS.”
Further Context of the NHS 'market'
The NHS has been and still is in great flux. As of Autumn 2022, it is still going through significant change following its 5 year Forward Strategy and one outcome is that Cancer Care has been taken out of secondary hospital care and put into primary GP and community care. The new Integrated Care Systems continue to come into action, and these have significant impact on commissioning strategies and resulting opportunities for service providers. (You can read more about this here via the Northern Cancer Alliance)
With the challenges of this commissioning environment, Coping with Cancer have been proactive looking for strategies to more effecively engage with local commissioners. In turn, Cancern was formed; a collaboration (led by Coping with Cancer) of Voluntary, Community, Faith, and Social Enterprise organisations who offer a range of services for people affected by Cancer. This initiative has opened new channels of communication with commissioners and quickly led to new contract income for the partnership. Coping with Cancer's new role as a tactical player/solution finder within the Cancer sector has grown the reputation of the charity from clinical level to managerial and strategic level at a NHS regional basis. It has also grown relationships and developed trust within the third sector for other new partnership bids for the future.
What would you do differently?
On reflection of the journey travelled to date Maggie commented: “I do not think I would/could have done things different as each action has brought learning which I would not have got if I did not do it. I am a strong communicator, and this has ‘ruffled’ a few within the NHS so perhaps I could have been more subtle and learned their politics a little better before contacting some. The public sector has been hard to develop – especially Northumberland Council and there are many elements to ‘selling’ into this sector which needs a lot of planning in advance.”
At the outset, Coping with Cancer felt a realistic target was £50k of commissioned income from NHS sources. In its time on the programme it has successfully doubled this target and generated over £100k of commissioned income. Although this is definitely positive, the organisation recognise that their contracts are mainly annual contracts and there is no guarantee of these continuining. Therefore there is focused effort on securing longer contracts and on better financial terms - and it is felt this more possible when delivering in partnership with others.
In future contract negotiations, the charity are keen to increase the contract value to a higher level of cost recovery. Currently the charity's contracted income only covers c. 68% of the service delivery costs. Therefore the charity has the constant pressure of requiring other income generation, e.g. grants, to plug those shortfalls. It is felt, following development work completed via this programme, that future contract negotiations could result in the level of cost recovery increasing to . 75 - 80%, however there is always likely to be a financial hole to fill. Additionally, with the above situation there are no funds available to invest in service and staff development, which is both important for sustaining of workforce and ensuring services are fit for purpose.
Given the financial situation described above, Coping with Cancer are keen to launch their 'Managing Cancer' service to businesses soon, whereby there is more opportunity to create (unrestricted) surplus from each sale which can be used to support the service and staff development. There are realisitic expectations that this service will need to build slowly, and will require a very different approach in terms of marketing and sales, however, with a reputation within the NHS positively buiding, it is felt charity are better equipped to make sales in other sectors.
You can keep up to date with Coping with Cancer's latest work and read more about their important impact below: