Member representatives for the UK's largest mutual healthcare organization and ICMIF member, Benenden Healthcare Society, have voted to open up the organization to the wider public.
Until now membership of the 107 year old Benenden Healthcare was only available to current or former public sectors workers as well as members of credit unions, co-operatives and charities.
At the Society’s Annual Conference in Manchester on Thursday, June 21, delegates voted to allow any UK resident, aged 16 or over, to join the Society and benefit from its mutual, not-for-profit ethos. This represents a major leap forward for the organisation, which began in 1905 when Post Office workers clubbed together using a low-cost, mutual model so that quality healthcare could become affordable for all.
Because it is a mutual, Benenden Healthcare sees itself as a natural partner to the UK National Health Service (NHS) - with its services complementing not replacing NHS services; alleviating pressure on waiting lists and providing non-acute healthcare services; enabling the NHS to focus funding on acute services.
Opening its eligibility criteria provides the public with greater choice for fulfilling their healthcare needs. Rather than being in competition with the NHS, Benenden Healthcare sees itself as enabling greater patient choice with a low-cost, accessible and ethical healthcare model.
The organisation is forecasting that an open eligibility criteria will result in increases in membership levels -- moving from a membership of around 930,000 in 2012 to over a million by 2016.
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…
“…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.”
“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.”
Benenden Healthcare has produced a video in which Ken Hesketh, Chief Executive, talks about the Society’s opening its eligibility and plans for it to become a major public healthcare provider.