A View from the Top
Penny Fell

Penny Fell is Managing Director of Surrey Choices and sits on the Board of Directors for the National Care Forum.

Reflections on the last decade

The last 10 years of my career have seen a steady erosion of the traditional boundaries between public, private, and voluntary social care sectors. Yet, the recent history of Surrey Choices shows it is still possible to build social care provider organisations that retain the strong vision and values inherited from the public sector of the past, and bring to the fore up-to-date and fit-for-purpose bodies that can compete in a 21st century commercial social care market.

At the same time, the breakdown in these barriers offers an opportunity for both providers – such as Surrey Choices – and commissioners, like Surrey County Council, to work together more effectively, co-producing high-quality services for the people we support within a landscape dominated by the need to produce best value from limited social care budgets.

Projections for the next decade

The work that Surrey County Council and Surrey Choices are doing together to co-produce high-quality services for the people we support clearly signposts the future direction for the social care sector.

Not only is this an effective means of commissioning and providing commercial social care services, but it also sets a course for improving care quality and service user experience.
It does so by expecting social care providers, like Surrey Choices, to both plan for the future and deliver on those plans on time and to budget.


As Surrey Choices’ Managing Director, I have, with the backing of my Board, started to roll-out strategic and business plans that have been cascaded throughout all 23 sites of the organisation.

They mean that all 400 staff know what it is Surrey Choices has set out to achieve for our c1,600 customers; when, over the next three years, it expects to do this; and every member of staff’s role in delivering this.

My job as Managing Director is to make sure that these plans have clear aims, SMART business objectives and activities, and that all concerned know when and how we will deliver them.

Pivotal to our plans is the understanding that, working back throughout the company, up to and including my senior management team, we monitor and evaluate both our successes and areas where we still meet development needs.


Over the past 40 years, my career has encompassed not only the social care sector and the NHS, but also: corporate roles in local and regional government; construction and law; national capacity building and funding; and local voluntary sector care delivery.

The experience I’ve taken from each of these roles has added to the knowledge and skills that I’ve been able to bring to Surrey Choices as a local authority social care trading company.

However, the most important influence by far has been the day-to-day job satisfaction I get from Surrey Choices customers and their support networks when we get things right. On those occasions when we don’t get it right, it’s a determination to drive forward the changes we need to make.


The best advice I have brought with me to Surrey Choices is the overriding need for any organisation, regardless of sector or size, to have a plan, to implement that plan thoroughly and to do it today.

I have learned in today’s social care sector it is crucial that social care providers like Surrey Choices not only deliver efficient services day in and day out, but they also base their activities on effective joint plans, co-produced with their commissioners.


The social care sector already holds the key to driving forward integrated health and social care delivery.

The forthcoming Green Paper on Social Care of Older People will set out plans for how the Government proposes to improve care and support for older people and tackle the challenge of an ageing population.

My advice to senior managers in the sector is to rise to this challenge and use their experience, knowledge and skills to plan ahead, so we all ensure that best practice from the past sets the agenda for the future of social care provision.

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