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Benenden Healthcare keeps mutual ideal alive

1 September 2011

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Benenden Healthcare Society is a not-for-profit mutual organisation that was born from the aspirations of ordinary people more than 105 years ago.

It began with Charles Garland’s idea to help his fellow Post Office colleagues. He was an ordinary Post Office worker who was appalled at the plight of his many colleagues who were contracting and dying from tuberculosis (TB).

The dusty, cramped offices in which sorting clerks worked were ideal conditions for the highly infectious disease to flourish. At the turn of the last century, good healthcare was not within the reach of people who earned just a few pounds a week while available sanatoria for the treatment of TB were largely restricted to the rich.

Charles Garland aspired to correct this wrong – nearly 50 years before the creation of the NHS – and the mutual model appeared the perfect remedy. His solution was for Post Office workers to contribute an affordable two shillings a year from their salaries, with one shilling deducted every six months. So if 30,000 people subscribed this would easily cover the cost of treating those who needed it.

It was an instant success. Over 105 years later, more than 900,000 people still benefit from that very simple idea and the cost is still relatively affordable to most families at £1.50 per person per week. These days, the range of healthcare services has increased and members of the Benenden Healthcare Society can benefit from a range of both treatment-based and information-based benefits.

Because services are discretionary, members are encouraged to assess the scale of their own need for a service and to only approach the Society for assistance if they cannot receive the same high-quality service via the NHS. This sets Benenden Healthcare apart from other healthcare providers, in that they aim to complement the work of the NHS and not replace it.

That ethos of co-operation with the NHS and of mutual values is one of the reasons why Benenden Healthcare’s membership is still largely made up of current or former public-sector workers. However, in recent years, the Society’s eligibility criteria have widened to include most of the third sector.

Now the Society looks to the future to continue the development of its simple, but continually relevant, mutual ideal.

You can take a look at Benenden Healthcare’s mutual ethos in action on their YouTube channel at

For more on corporate membership or to join as an individual, email: [email protected] 
or call 0845 052 5732 quoting “CAM”. (Calls may be recorded. Calls cost a maximum of 4p per minute for BT customers. The price of calls from non-BT lines will vary.)

Connect with Benenden Healthcare:

  • Search “Benenden Healthcare” on Facebook
  • Use @Benenden_health on Twitter