Our first 10 years: 2011-2021

Chief Executive Dr Linda Harris OBE looks back with pride at some of the highlights of Spectrum’s first 10 years.

As the founding Chief Executive of Spectrum Community Health CIC, it is safe to say we came from humble beginnings, transferring out from the NHS but always with the aim of continuing to serve by adding even more value as a social enterprise.

We started out as WISMS (Wakefield Integrated Substance Misuse Service) in 2003, under NHS Wakefield District Primary Care Trust and a small team of 13. Five years later, the Right to Request was introduced by the Department of Health, enabling staff to take the lead in setting up social enterprises. This programme was part of the national objective to transform community services, and under Spectrum, we have been doing just that!

Spectrum began with around 100 staff working to a single contract, spread across three main operating services and supported by a small Head Office team. A brave step, but one which allowed us a level of autonomy to tackle social issues, address health inequalities and bring about greater staff and patient involvement. Evidence told us this could harness innovation and lead to better outcomes and better value for beneficiaries and the public. Having been inspired by the stories of social enterprises large and small, I am wholly convinced by the social enterprise and employee ownership model’s ability to add value, deliver more – more for people being served and more for the staff who are serving.

01 April 2011 was a proud moment for me and indeed everyone who had decided to take that bold step… being able to put the company plate above the door, sign letters with the company logo, and take control of our destiny.

Spectrum was now delivering care to some of Wakefield’s most vulnerable, most voiceless. We had, and still have, an impassioned and committed staff group. Our staff have specialised skills and for creating and maintaining an environment that supports our desire to improve the lives of patients in local communities. We also cultivated a culture in which our staff flourish, with values that are at our core and remain an essential ingredient of anyone working at and with Spectrum today.

Opportunities were now well within our grasp and we took hold of them. We support three distinct but interlinked populations: health and justice, sexual health and substance misuse has underpinned our 10 year journey. We have grown in confidence year on year to the point of being able to define ourselves not only as clinical experts with a social enterprise ethos but also as natural integrators, enabling us to attract some of the most amazing and skilled partners to work with us.

Our first big test and exciting step outside our geographical district of origin came in 2013, delivering prison healthcare services at HMP & YOI Styal – the second largest female prison in the UK. From here we started to build up a reputation of bespoke joined up, person centred pathways. We also understand how important it is to always invest in deep and respectful partnerships with HMPPS when working in secure environments, founded on shared values.

As our confidence and expertise grew, we took on one of the most challenging turnaround programmes in the NHS: HMP Liverpool. Liverpool’s whole healthcare model needed to be transformed in a very short timeframe. Catapulted into the national spotlight following a challenging HMIP inspection in 2017, we felt well placed and ready to respond to the call. Better Health Liverpool was born. We are now the largest prison healthcare provider in the North of England and the second largest prison in the UK.

We’ve also grown our footprint and our reputation for successfully integrating and innovating in Sexual Health Services, extending our services to include Wakefield, Barnsley and Wigan & Leigh. Our approach has resulted in purpose built clinical premises, modern customer care, a highly and dual trained nursing team, successful sexual health outreach, pioneering Relationships & Sex Education, strong links to Primary Care Networks, digitally inclusive care pathways and proactive management of GUM outcomes. This has solidified Spectrum as a quality and innovative sexual health provider.

In Substance Misuse Services, we lead as an expert clinical partner across the north. Our services are knowledgeable, evidence based and holistic, with capable clinicians known for our expertise, wellbeing championship, outreach and partnership working. We are always prepared to challenge stigma and look ahead with hope for our population, successfully navigating years of shrinking budgets and a worrying societal picture of worsening health inequalities. Superb multi-disciplinary working across wide and complex geographies means our substance misuse teams are renowned for excellence in care, rewarded in 2018 when North Yorkshire Horizons became the first SMS provider ever to be awarded OUTSTANDING by the CQC. All of our substance misuse community services rated by the regulator have achieved a rating of GOOD or above – a testament to the tenacity and focus of our community teams.

Looking ahead to the next ten years

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented global challenges. The challenges are complex and compounded by further economic, political and environmental challenges. These events have widened the already significant disparities in health inequalities, health outcomes and unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity.

I remain passionate about Spectrum and optimistic about our future. We have spent over a decade building the right experience and expertise to deliver specialised, trauma informed care. Our mature multi-agency teams span the whole of the North of England and beyond. We are ambitious to grow and widen our geographical footprint. However, we continue to retain the feel of a family run business, weaving ourselves into the fabric of local communities, respecting the culture and history of the local areas we serve. We harness the voice of lived experience amongst our workforce and our patients, as key to designing services that people can and want to access. We aim to achieve sustainable and positive change for people in vulnerable circumstances.

Dr Linda Harris OBE

Chief Executive, Spectrum Community Health CIC

Find out more about Spectrum history in our celebratory report: 10 years of Spectrum