Community interest companies: three unique health sector case studies

Community interest companies are perhaps one of the most powerful and exciting new types of companies in the UK.

They enable socially-conscious entrepreneurs and groups to establish effective organisations which can leverage the various advantages of both charity and private organisations.

One sector which has taken particular advantage of the CIC model is the health sector. The versatility of the model has really empowered a number of organisations to achieve great, innovative things at a time when public resources are squeezed. While many CICs have been set up as more conventional care solutions, today we’re going to look at three particularly unique examples of community interest companies involved in the health sector.


MindFood represents one of the more innovative community interest companies working in mental health services. They provide a calming, therapeutic environment (a market garden) in which people with mental health issues can learn to garden and grow fruits and vegetables. The produce is then sold to the local community by volunteers, with the proceeds going back into the enterprise itself.

The benefits of gardening on mental health and general wellbeing are very well-documented. The nature of mental health issues means that patients can often feel isolated and unsupported. However, what makes MindFood so unique as a CIC is the way it manages to offer care through gardening - while running as a productive horticultural co-op and community in its own right. It’s all thanks to its business model.

Horizon Health

nurse 527615 640Working from “behind bars”, Horizon Health is unique in being the first nurse practitioner-run enterprise to offer primary care in custodial environments (HMP Norwich, HMP Wayland, and HMP Bure) in Norfolk.

Horizon offer GP-style clinics five days a week to patients, where anyone can come for a walk-in appointment. It’s their goal to be the first point of contact for patients within the facilities, offering treatments as well as advice and training to patients, on an extremely diverse range of both physical and mental ailments (including addiction).

With addiction treatment and better healthcare said to decrease the likelihood of reoffending, Horizon are making a major positive impact in the prison health system. Thanks to their position as a CIC, they have since expanded their services to include ‘Wellman clinics’, aimed at caring for patients unlikely to attend walk-in appointments, and NHS health checks. It has also enabled them to forge partnerships with patient groups, inmate organisations, and other service providers in a way “not possible” before they became one.

Willow Bank Surgery

Willow Bank Surgery, like many other primary care-oriented CICs, offers a wide range of general services to its patients – including GP contact, maternity and contraceptive services, minor surgery, immunisation, and many others.

It might sound rather unremarkable, and in a lot of ways, Willow Bank is very similar to a lot of other CICs in the sector. However, what makes it stand out is it ‘self care aware’ programme, and more significantly, its ‘Patient Group’.

Self care aware aims to educate patients on how they can care for themselves in regards to either long-term or common conditions. They do so by offering comprehensive advice in a way that encourages patients to take the burden off the NHS and generally improve their own wellbeing. In this way, they are able to promote preventative medicine, as well as offer treatment.

More uniquely is the Patient Group, or “patient participation group”. As mentioned in our previous post on CICs, one of their functions is to attempt to incorporate all stakeholders into the organisation’s strategy process. Willow Bank’s so-called PPG meets regularly with registered patients, as well as with a representative from the surgery. The long term goal here is to bring patients’ (i.e. stakeholder’s) voices into the consultation and development process for the surgery. In this way, the CIC model gives patients a much greater voice and input into the running and organisation of their surgery.


What these case studies show us is the flexibility with which community interest companies are able to operate. While they are not always appropriate for absolutely every situation in the sector, it is clear that many CICs are able to innovate and engage stakeholders in the provision of their own services in a way neither the public nor private sector alone are always able to accomplish.