NHS to become ‘foundation trust’

THE health service responsible for Skegness Hospital intends to become more autonomous, and claims this will provide opportunities to invest more in locally important services, while offering greater accountability to the community.

Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust’s chief executive Ellen Armistead explained the organisation’s plans to become a ‘foundation trust’ to Skegness Hospital Watch members at their latest meeting on Thursday.

Mrs Armistead said: “Becoming a foundation trust will give us greater flexibility to reinvest surplus profits into local service which will make it easier to support funding of new services.”

A key component of foundation trusts is the involvement of trust members and governors - elected and appointed carers, health professionals, and community representatives, who, it is hoped, will create closer links between the service providers and the population they serve. Trust members can vote in governor elections, have a say on service changes and stand as a governor, to scrutinise the organisation’s performance and make recommendations to the Board of Directors.

Despite Mrs Armistead’s enthusiasm for the project, which she assured did not constitute privatisation of the health service, some Hospital Watch members were unconvinced.

As the government’s health bill has been passed despite 70 per cent of surveyed health professionals objecting to it, concerns were raised about the extent to which the Council of Governors would be truly democratic and effective.

Geoff Poulter said: “The government said we will be better off - I don’t believe that to be so.”

Mrs Armistead explained that many of the concerns raised about health secretary Andrew Lansley’s health reforms centred on the role of clinical commissioning groups, (CCGs) which the trust had no jurisdiction over.

CCGs are led by GPs who are responsible for buying and planning services to be offered locally.

Although Mrs Armistead felt it was better to have those decisions made by people who were ‘deep routed in our community’ she was unable to comment on the fact that CCGs aren’t obligated to provide health services to tourists as the former PCTs were.

Other concerns about reductions to the number of statutory health services CCGs must offer compared with what the PCTs were required to, were also outside of Mrs Armistead’s remit.

l To apply to become a member visit www.lincolnshirecommunityhealthservices.nhs.uk