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Social Value People: Michelle McCann of NHS London Procurement Partnership

Social Value Portal and NHS London Procurement Partnership are working together to help make good go further across the city. We recently sat down with Michelle McCann, NHS LPP's Chief Sustainability Officer, to talk about the growing Social Value movement.  


So Michelle, what does Social Value mean to you?

To me, Social Value is outward-facing into the community. It’s being able to improve the outlook for a community - for example, through employment or education opportunities.

There's the old parable that says, whilst you can give somebody a fish to resolve their immediate hunger, if you teach them to fish, then it's a lot more sustainable. Social Value can provide opportunities for people who may be marginalised or disadvantaged in some way.

And what led you to pursue a career in Social Value?

I was working as a Strategic Planning Manager at the Medical Research Council, a non-departmental government body that funds research at the forefront of science to prevent illness and improve human health in the UK.

During my time there, the chief executive predicted that the UK was heading for both a mental health and dementia crisis in the next decade. This got me thinking about society and wellbeing and something was awakened in me that I have carried throughout the rest of my career.

I worked with the Medical Research Council for about eleven years. This gave me lots of opportunities to “unofficially” see what suppliers could include as added value, or Social Value, as part of their contracts.

I then moved to Goldsmiths University, where I was the Head of Procurement. Goldsmiths wanted to be greener, which meant I could introduce more sustainability and Social Value into the work we were doing there.

After that, I took a job at the NHS London Procurement Partnership as Category Director for the estates, facilities and professional services workstream. The three-year strategy I created for the workstream was heavily influenced by sustainability, Social Value, and decarbonising the estate before the NHS had developed its roadmap to net zero.

Once the NHS roadmap was developed, NHS LPP saw the value in creating a sustainability and Social Value workstream in its own right, for which I am now the Executive Director.

What advice do you have for those that want to create Social Value?

There are so many models and frameworks out there relating to Social Value that it can be hard to know where to start. I would just: say start somewhere, and keep it very simple.

A good first step is often to ask your supply base what they have been able to deliver in terms of Social Value previously. They'll tell you what they've been doing. Start small; you don't need to have big tools, or to use multiple Measures because you're afraid to miss opportunities.

Some Social Value is better than no Social Value when you are starting out. I see this as a journey, and while we will probably take a couple of wrong turns along the way, that is okay.

How can the NHS improve its Social Value?

I think the Government's guidance is great, and it provides us with a set of health related areas to explore. But I think we also need to provide more support to procurers, so they understand, at a strategic level, what we're trying to achieve through the Social Value mandate.

For example, we should look at local needs. Which Social Value priorities is a trust trying to address in a particular area? What is the demographic, and where do inequalities exist? Once we understand these, we can better target those areas through our tenders. I think that's the piece of the jigsaw that's missing at the moment.

For this reason, I have expanded the team to include a dedicated Social Value manager and sustainability manager, who can provide more training for both procurers and suppliers.

Every procurer needs to understand their region to maximise their impact. It's pointless putting in a load of volunteering hours in an area that doesn't need any volunteers. You want to address the issues that are going to impact the community. So I would always try and put myself in the shoes of a resident.

There are many data sets provided by government and local authorities on areas of deprivation. That's a good place to start. We can also look at patient stats - for instance, if we have a high percentage of people coming in with respiratory conditions, we know that air pollution directly affects that. We can then start to use these stats to identify the health inequalities in the communities that we want to address.

So creating Social Value can help reduce strain on the NHS?

Yes, anything we do to impact health inequalities through Social Value will have a direct, positive impact on people's health and, therefore, the number of visits being made to hospitals.

We’ve seen in the press that there are direct links between certain inequalities and the health of individuals. If, for example, we have problems with obesity in a particular area, we are likely to see more admission points for a person who struggles with obesity.

If we can use Social Value to create some healthy living opportunities in that area, then we are likely to see fewer people needing to use the associated health services.

What are the biggest challenges facing the NHS when creating Social Value?

The NHS has a number of cost pressures and is constantly being asked to make savings. I believe it is important to clarify that embedding Social Value is an opportunity rather than an added cost, to challenge the common misconception that nothing comes for free.

We need to create case studies that show how the delivery of Social Value actually benefits the supplier as well as the trust. Social Value isn't an additional cost to a contract, but rather an additional benefit.

The other thing we need to make sure everybody understands is that Social Value commitments are not an aspiration, they are an obligation. And once they are committed to, they form part of the contract. This will help us to monitor delivery and make sure that commitments are realised throughout the life of a contract.

How do you get stakeholders onboard with Social Value?

I equate it to this scenario: you're sitting on a train and the train stops. If nobody tells you why the train has stopped, you start to get irate. But if the driver tells you you're stuck at a red light and they’re trying to get hold of somebody and will update you in a few minutes, you're a lot calmer.

I think communication with stakeholders is similar. If you explain to stakeholders why you're doing something, they're more likely to come on the journey with you. 

Learn how Social Value Portal enables NHS London Procurement Partnership to embed Social Value in NHS supply chains

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About Social Value Portal

Since 2017 Social Value Portal has been at the forefront of the Social Value movement. As creators of the endorsed Social Value TOM SystemTM, hosts of the annual Social Value Conference and founding members of the independent National Social Value Taskforce – they set industry standards and lead the business agenda.

Their unique mix of consultancy, cloud platform and programmes offer organisations the complete solution to accurately measure, manage and report Social Value – and create lasting impact.

In 2022, SVP achieved B Corp status, scoring above average in all assessed. The company’s aim is to promote better business and community wellbeing through the integration of Social Value into day-to-day business activity across all sectors.

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