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Benenden Chief Executive Opens Annual Westminster Reception

10th July 2015

On 8th July, Benenden held its annual Westminster reception at the House of Commons, hosted by Helen Grant MP. The event brought together politicians, key stakeholders and partners to discuss the launch of a new report on public perceptions of NHS funding.

The report, which can be downloaded here looked at the public’s attitudes following the recent General Election, focussing specifically on people’s views on where the government should prioritise its health spending.

In his opening speech, Benenden's Chief Executive Marc Bell welcomed guests and discussed the outcomes of the report and the future of healthcare...    

“My Lords, Ladies and Gentleman, I’m delighted you are able to join us today at our Annual Westminster event to spend time with us in such wonderful and historic surroundings.

“On behalf of Benenden, I would like to thank Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald, the constituency in which Benenden hospital is based, for sponsoring today’s event and we appreciate her giving up her precious time to be with us today.  We also welcome all of our guests from the wider Benenden community – thank you for attending.  I especially use the word community because this is what we at Benenden are – a group of individuals and organisations who hold the mutual spirit in high regard. We think that’s pretty important in this day and age.

“For those of you who have been here before, I use this annual event not just to catch up with healthcare colleagues, but also to provide a short update on Benenden’s progress. It has been a busy year for us ….  We have just concluded our AGM and conference up in Edinburgh where we not only reported record results to our stakeholders but had the opportunity, as always, to engage directly with our membership – this democratic element of our structure is something that is very important to us.  It provides us with an opportunity to understand what matters to our members and effectively gain insight from patients about how we should provide our health services. 

“For those of you who do not know Benenden so well, we are a 110 year mutual organisation that has a very special place in the provision of health and care in the UK. We have nearly 1 million members who rely on us to be there for them. In terms of scale, as you know, about 1 in 10 of the UK population has some form of private health policy that supplements the fantastic care that the NHS provides. That’s around 6 million people or so – so you can see that with 1 million Members using Benenden we have quite a significant scale.

“We exist to provide a low cost alternative to private medical insurers to help the citizen when the NHS needs us. We know the stretch that the NHS is under – so I’m not going to repeat what we all know. We are, I believe, part of the solution to some of the challenges brought about by an ageing population, increasing co-morbidities and a tough economic environment.

“In healthcare, often, simply helping with getting a quick diagnosis provides a major positive impact on our health system. It assists keeping people out of hospital and makes the finite resources of our system go further. Of course at Benenden we do much more than helping provide quick diagnosis of a health condition. We provide treatment and surgery, mental health services and access to a GP 24/7 365 days a year. We really do provide a wide range of health services all for just a couple of pounds per week per person.

“I can go on about what we do for hours, but we can talk more later. What I want you to take away today about our model is that we are a mutual that’s owned by its members or patients if you like – not its staff or directors. We believe that really drives the value out of the mutual model because there is no overriding profit motive. We also practice solidarity and fairness, are open to all uk citizens and charge the same low membership fee to everyone regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. We are pro the NHS and one of the biggest strengths of the Benenden model is that we invest time, effort and money in empowering our members and patients to take responsibility for their health. We educate, inform and work very hard to improve our Members wellbeing. We deploy technology solutions to improve health outcomes but do so at a lower unit cost.

“You might be interested to know that Benenden as a business is more than just healthcare – we also provide other services for Members. For example, we recently launched a travel insurance product that was in specific response to the needs of our members who were struggling to get affordable cover past a certain age. We also recently acquired a Scottish insurance broker that specialises in the charity and third sector and are investing £45m in redeveloping our own hospital in Kent so that it can provide state of the art care to our Members. The hospital will boast new scanning and diagnostic imaging equipment all under one roof, an expansion of the outpatient area, modernisation of theatres, a new endoscopy unit and considerable refurbishment throughout

“Financially, we are a large and successful organisation having grown our balance sheet by around 70% over the last 6 years which means our Members can rely on a sustainable organisation and one of which I am incredibly proud (as you can tell ) . It’s not just me though, just a few weeks ago Benenden won the Moneywise Award for “best customer service” for the fifth year running – that is a really testament to the dedication and commitment of our staff to our members.

“This award was voted for by the public and we at Benenden were keen to understand how the Public feels about the outcome of this year’s election and how they feel it might impact the NHS and healthcare in general.  That is why we commissioned a poll with our colleagues from COG to ask over 1000 members of the public their views. The research findings are available for you to take away.

Some of the results are eye openers for the Government, the NHS and others I think:

For example:

Another thing that was particularly interesting was the fact that 29% would prefer not-for-profit/ voluntary organisations to be involved in the NHS.  These figures run contrary to the views that the media and other surveys often portray.

For us at Benenden this is good news because it indicates that our role – as a private, not-for-profit health and wellbeing provider supporting the NHS - is valued and supported by the public.

In this our 110th year, Benenden has shown how it, by honouring its history and looking to the future we can continue to work for our members and the broader public to support healthcare in the UK and we look forward to working with those of you here today to continue down this path.”

Ends

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