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Benenden Healthcare set to open doors to all

21st June 2012

With GPs on strike and satisfaction levels in the NHS seeing record drops*, the future of UK healthcare is uncertain. Benenden Healthcare Society believes that there is a role to play for non-profit, low-cost, ethical business models in the provision of public services – and today they have taken a huge leap to be part of that provision.

UK residents are set for greater choice in healthcare provision as Benenden Healthcare Society’s annual conference voted today to remove the last of its membership eligibility restrictions.

The annual conference was held at the Palace Hotel in Manchester this week following a year-long membership consultation on the issue of eligibility criteria.

Membership of Benenden Healthcare up until today had been restricted to current or former public sectors workers as well as members of credit unions, co-operatives and charities.

Now, any UK resident aged 16 or over, will be able to join the Society and benefit from its mutual, not-for-profit ethos.

This represents a major leap forward for the organisation, with its 107-year history beginning in 1905 when Post Office workers clubbed together using a low-cost, mutual model so that quality healthcare could become affordable for all.

Ken Hesketh, Chief Executive at Benenden Healthcare, said: “Benenden Healthcare has a long history with significant milestones along the way and this represents the most important yet.

“The Society aims to complement, not replace, the healthcare provision of the NHS and thus provide greater choice to individuals in tailoring the way they access health in the UK.

“This move, to allow any UK resident aged 16 or over to join the Society, means that choice is openly accessible with no discrimination due to your employer background.

“We support this choice with low contribution rates, high-quality customer service, prompt consultation and treatment - and above all, it is underpinned with a mutual, not-for-profit ethos where every member is able to get democratically involved in the progress of the organisation.”

Benenden Healthcare is forecasting that open eligibility criteria will result in increases in membership levels (from c.930,000 in 2012 to c.1,000,000 in 2016) but Ken Hesketh reassures: “This move for open eligibility is not only to increase membership levels.

“We are realistic in realising we must be competitive within a tough healthcare environment, but we are also passionate about the future of mutuals and co-operatives in the UK.

“We believe that mutuals like ours have a strong future in the provision of public services and this move to open eligibility places us perfectly to be a part of that.”

Members are allocated to regional branches on joining the Society. They are encouraged to participate and make proposals to the annual conference – held in June each year. Delegates are also nominated from branches to attend conference – and it is these delegates who have voted in favour of opening the Society.

Ken continued: “The proposition to Conference came about as we realised our previous eligibility criteria, taking up a large chunk of our rulebook, were unrealistic in a modern environment and not supportive of our values and ethos.”

Benenden Healthcare’s vision is to be the UK’s leading health & wellbeing mutual organisation – and this decision will help the Society to help others, which is one of its founding principles.

* http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/blog/bsa_survey_2011.html