Community Dental Services (CDS) are an employee owned social enterprise providing dental care and oral health improvement programmes for vulnerable people across much of east and central England.

Here, Head of Communications, Brigit Parker describes the role employee ownership plays in social enterprise.

Employee ownership a common thread running through many social enterprises.  At CDS it is a founding principle, voted for by 75% of our workforce when we transitioned from the NHS in 2011. Now, we work hard to ensure it is front of mind in all our decision making and that all employees understand their shared responsibility. We have been recognised in national awards for how we have leveraged employee ownership to drive our social purpose to improve oral health in evermore communities.

Our Board has strong employee elected representation and this ensures a constant focus on our founding principles and values, and that these are not lost as we grow as a business.  Employee ownership supports good decision making; we have an employee representative group who consider many decisions from the role of how they effect the workforce and advise on issues such as employee bonus and re-distribution of surplus.  This means the leadership team are informed by a considered employee view to guide their decision making.

Employee ownership drives our social purpose at a very practical level and there are numerous examples of how employees or groups of employees have championed and developed initiatives that improve patient care.  These have included the introduction of Pet Therapy, and Basil the Beagle is now a hit with patients in our Suffolk clinics.  We have trained clinical teams in Makaton and are the only dentist recognised by the Makaton Charity.  Both these examples flourished in an employee owned environment transforming from good ideas to established practise.  Employee led teams championed our successful bidding for Prison Dentistry contracts and these are now an important new business line.  Embedding employee ownership creates a culture of employee entrepreneurship that contributes significantly to our growth. 

Employee ownership means that employees have a collective responsibility to each other, and this has led to a range of employee generated health and wellbeing initiatives such as a walking group and mental health champions.

At CDS it would be impossible for us to be a successful social enterprise without being employee owned.

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