Bridges commits £1.65m to first active social impact bond in the UK healthcare sector

24th March 2015

The ‘Ways to Wellness’ programme will launch next week, providing up-front funding for innovative ‘social prescribing’ interventions by four specialist providers in Newcastle It is aiming to improve the health outcomes of over 11,000 people Bridges’ Social Sector Funds have now backed 13 UK SIBs Bridges Ventures (‘Bridges’), a specialist fund manager dedicated to sustainable […]

  • The ‘Ways to Wellness’ programme will launch next week, providing up-front funding for innovative ‘social prescribing’ interventions by four specialist providers in Newcastle
  • It is aiming to improve the health outcomes of over 11,000 people
  • Bridges’ Social Sector Funds have now backed 13 UK SIBs

Bridges Ventures (‘Bridges’), a specialist fund manager dedicated to sustainable and impact investment, has agreed to invest £1.65m in a new social impact bond (‘SIB’) designed to improve the health outcomes of over 11,000 people in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne area.

Over 15 million people in the UK suffer from long-term health conditions (‘LTCs’) such as diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease. Most experience poorer health outcomes and reduced quality of life as a result. They are also proportionately higher users of health services: 70% of national NHS spend is on patients with these conditions.

To address this issue, a newly-formed organisation called Ways to Wellness has developed an innovative programme based on the concept of ‘social prescribing’ – the use of non-medical interventions to achieve sustained lifestyle change and improved self-care among people with long-term health conditions. Ways to Wellness believes this first programme, which will start next week and run for an initial seven years, can improve the health of approximately 11,000 people living in the west of Newcastle.

Services will be delivered by four social sector organisations, selected following a procurement process: Changing Lives, First Contact Clinical, HealthWORKS Newcastle and Mental Health Concern.

The Ways to Wellness programme will be funded by a social impact bond commissioned by the NHS Newcastle West Clinical Commissioning Group (NWCCG), Big Lottery Fund’s Commissioning Better Outcomes and the Cabinet Office’s Social Outcomes Fund. Through the Commissioning Better Outcomes scheme, the Big Lottery Fund will pay up to £2 million in outcomes payments and the Cabinet Office’s Social Outcomes Fund will support Ways to Wellness with up to £1 million in payments. It will be the first social impact bond of its type – i.e. specifically designed to help people with long-term health conditions – to go live anywhere in the world.

The Bridges Social Sector Funds will be the sole investor in the Ways to Wellness SIB, investing £1.65m. It will then work closely with the providers concerned. The contracts are structured on an ‘outcomes payment’ basis, so investors will only be paid according to the level of improvement achieved in health outcomes.

Patients will be referred directly onto the programme by their GP and will remain on it for an average of 21 months, supported at all times by a dedicated ‘Link worker’. The aim is to enhance their ability to manage their illness, through healthier behaviours, increased community participation, and better access to specialist health services, supplementing the support they get from their healthcare professional. Over time, this should improve their quality of life – while also reducing the demands on NHS primary and secondary care.

The impact predicted from a programme of social prescribing for LTCs is based on a wide body of research that links health inequalities directly to wider social determinants: evidence suggests that people in lower socio-economic groups tend to suffer proportionately more from LTCs.

In the Newcastle West area – which includes some of the most deprived wards in England – an estimated 30,000-40,000 people suffer with one or more LTCs. Local GP practices in Newcastle West have made use of social prescribing for a number of years; but this SIB will allow them to scale up provision properly for the first time.

Antony Ross, partner and head of Social Sector Funds at Bridges Ventures, said:

“This pioneering SIB is the result of an unprecedented collaboration between local GPs, the Newcastle West CCG and the local voluntary sector. We are delighted to be providing support alongside VONNE, the Big Lottery Fund and the Cabinet Office, and we’re very excited about the potentially powerful impact it could have on the health outcomes of people with long-term conditions in the local area.”

Dr. Guy Pilkington, chair for NHS Newcastle West Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“We are really pleased and excited by the opportunity of working with Ways To Wellness to improve the health of 11,000 people in Newcastle over the next few years with long term health conditions.

As a local GP, I can see how supporting people to look after themselves in the best way possible needs to be more than medicine. By offering care that looks at social opportunities, encouraging people to get involved in a range of activities available in local communities, we are convinced that people living with longstanding health complaints, are being helped to feel confident and connected. This will mean that they will not only feel the benefits now, but will also do better in the longer term.”

Professor Chris Drinkwater CBE, Chair, Ways to Wellness, said:

“Setting up Ways to Wellness has been an exercise in effective partnership working. Our four not-for-profit providers, support agencies, investors and health bodies have all been driven by a common vision to link general practices with social prescribing services for long term conditions.  It has immense potential for replication and, as a charity, Ways to Wellness proposes to share the lessons we learn along the way.  I am delighted that all the elements have now come together and Ways to Wellness looks forward to working with all of our partners to make a difference to the lives of people with long term conditions in West Newcastle.”

Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society, said:

“As part of our long term economic plan this government is committed to supporting charities and social enterprises to access the finance that they need to do more. By working together across government and creating social impact bonds we can confront complex issues – whether it is chronic health conditions or youth unemployment – and save money in the long term as well as improving the quality of life for tens of thousands of people throughout the UK.”

This investment in the Ways to Wellness SIB builds on Bridges’ previous experience of funding social sector organisations to deliver outcomes-based contracts. Following this latest deal, Bridges’ Social Sector Funds will have backed 13 social impact bonds in the UK, financing innovative interventions in areas like foster care, youth training, adoption and now health.

Bridges also has an extensive track record of working with healthcare-related businesses via its Sustainable Growth and Property Funds. Recent investments have included Alina Homecare, a domiciliary care business, while it has also previously raised the CarePlaces Fund, a dedicated investment vehicle to help meet the demand for high-quality, sustainable care homes.






Press contacts

Bridges Ventures                                                Tel: +44 (0) 20 7262 5566
Marina Aung                                              


Notes to editors


About Bridges Ventures (

Bridges Ventures LLP (“Bridges”) is a specialist fund manager focused exclusively on sustainable and impact investment. It invests in high-impact SMEs, properties and social organisations that can generate superior returns for both investors and society as a whole. It focuses on four key impact ‘themes’: health & wellbeing, education, sustainable living and under-served markets.

The Bridges Social Impact Bond fund – the first of its type in the world – was launched in April 2013 with Big Society Capital as cornerstone investor, alongside Omidyar Network and Panahpur. It held a final close on £25m in September 2014. The fund provides investment and support to charities and social enterprises delivering intervention programmes that substantially improve social outcomes.

The Social Impact Bond Fund also has a co-investment agreement with Bridges’ other Social Sector fund, the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund. Seeded by the Bridges Charitable Trust, this fund was launched in August 2009 and has raised nearly £12m for investment in scalable social enterprises and charities with sustainable business models delivering high social impacts.

Bridges now manages almost £500 million across its Sustainable Growth, Property and Social Sector funds.

About NHS Newcastle West Clinical Commissioning Group

NHS Newcastle West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is the statutory health body responsible for the planning and buying of local NHS care and services to meet the needs of the local community across the west of Newcastle.

The three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) – NHS Gateshead CCG, NHS Newcastle North and East CCG, and NHS Newcastle West CCG– will merge to become NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG on 1 April 2015.

About Ways to Wellness

Ways to Wellness Ltd is a not-for-profit company that supports people with long term health conditions to have a better quality of life.

Building upon existing evidence, it is working to put in place the framework to immensely scale up existing access to social prescribing.

Its Board is chaired by Professor Chris Drinkwater CBE, who was previously an inner-city GP in Newcastle West. Until last year he was President and Public Health Lead for the NHS Alliance.

The service about to be launched in Newcastle will start accepting patient referrals from 7 April 2015.


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