The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, visited the Meadowell Centre in Cassio Road, Watford, yesterday.

The Conservative MP for Horsham was on a fact-finding tour to see the progress being made by former public sector services which have been set up as independent employee-owned organisations.

Meadowell provides specialist primary care GP and nursing services for approximately 500 homeless people in the Watford area and used to be part of the local Primary Care Trust.

In 2011 it became a not-for-profit community interest company, Health Inclusion Matters CIC, providing NHS services free at the point of delivery under contract to the NHS.

The MP heard that as a "community interest company", taking control of its budget and staffing, Meadowell has flourished.

It has expanded facilities with new consulting rooms, has increased services it offers to include counselling, specialist substance misuse nursing, foot health, specialist hepatitis C assessment and treatment in association with the Royal Free Hospital, and it is building a larger team of GPs, nurses and specialist.

Meadowell’s Managing Director, Julie Madley, said, "We were delighted to welcome the Minister to our centre and to see our progress since we launched as a community interest company on 2011.

"Our increased independence has allowed our team to make faster decisions and has given us the flexibility to innovate and try new ideas that lead to better quality services for our patients."

Meadowell’s founding GP Dr Tim Robson said: "The Minister’s visit follows a recent visit by the Care Quality Commission who confirmed that we are providing services to a high standard and our patients are getting the best possible care.

"We have certainly benefited from being an independent company, but we remain a proud provider of NHS services and we are very grateful to the local NHS for its continuing support of our work."

The Minister said: "Every part of the public sector is having to adapt to tough economic times and look at innovative ways of delivering public services.

"We know that mutuals and joint ventures, SMEs and the voluntary sector offer the chance of driving up productivity everywhere.

"Social enterprises like Health Inclusion Matters have a big role to play in building a more diverse marketplace of suppliers.

"As an employee-owned organisation, it is demonstrating how the flexibility of this model can provide better value for money and better services for patients."