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Social Innovation in Health and Social Care

Author: SIE
Published Date: 20 January 2016

Health and social care systems across the developed world are under strain. Established to deal with health problems of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they now find themselves ill equipped to respond to twenty first century challenges. Significant (and welcome) medical advances have turned previously life-threatening conditions into long-term conditions that now need to be managed. These conditions usually have a relational quality that means they can only be tackled in collaboration with citizens – requiring a shift from solving problems ‘for’ citizens to working ‘with’ them. And demographic change means an ageing population where many more people will experience long term care needs and multi-morbidity (two or more chronic conditions).


In addition, these challenges are set against a context of rising patient expectations. Citizens have become accustomed to high levels of personalisation, efficiency and responsiveness in private sector services such as banking and retail. While new technologies in theory offer real potential for changing the way public services are delivered, in reality the impact of technologies has been felt much more slowly in health and social care systems than in other industries.


The aftermath of the global financial crisis has also led to a renewed focus on efficiency and doing ‘more with less’. Post crisis, policymakers are typically “working with less time, trust and money to achieve their goals”.


Finally, Europe is continually facing new challenges. The current wave of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia is placing a huge strain on the services of primary receiving countries.


With all these factors in play, the case for innovation is clear. Social innovations - new combinations of practices and approaches developed to better address social needs – will be need to be developed and implemented throughout health and social care systems. In many places, these innovations are already underway, albeit often on a small scale.


Written by Anna Davies and Victoria Boelman (The Young Foundation) and edited by Peter Ramsden, this report brings together the findings of recent European Union funded research and practice in this area in order to:

  • Highlight the kinds of social innovation currently being pursued in health and social care systems
  • Assess the challenges associating with innovating within health and social care
  • Outline the role for government and policymakers in supporting attempts to drive through innovation in these sectors 

Read the report: Social Innovation in Health and Social Care