Hospital trust's foundation status bid
A HEALTH official has hit back at union representatives who have criticised a hospital trust's bid to gain foundation status.Chairman of the West Suffolk Hospitals Trust Veronica Worrell defended the move as the body launched its bid to become one of the first in the country to gain foundation status.
A HEALTH official has hit back at union representatives who have criticised a hospital trust's bid to gain foundation status.
Chairman of the West Suffolk Hospitals Trust Veronica Worrell defended the move as the body launched its bid to become one of the first in the country to gain foundation status.
The public services union Unison has criticised the trust, which runs the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, and Walnuttree (crrct) and St Leonard's hospitals in Sudbury, saying the move would lead to inequalities within the NHS.
Unison spokesman Gill Robertson said: "We have already spoken out on the proposals and I hope we can stop it going ahead.
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"We feel that foundation trusts will just be a backdoor to privatisation, which will lead to inequalities within the NHS."
Mrs Worrell hit back at the criticism as she and other trust members officially launched the bid in Bury St Edmunds town centre on Saturday.
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"Gaining foundation status will not create monumental changes, it will be evolution rather than revolution.
"If we succeed in our bid we will be much more in control of our own destiny. A council of members would be set up, which would be above the board directors and would make all the major decisions.
"This body would be elected from within the local community and as we wouldn't be controlled by Whitehall we could make decisions based on local priorities. We feel local people are in the best position to make decisions on local need," she said.
Foundation status will allow trusts access to a range of management freedoms and they would have more freedom for capital investment and can vary local pay and conditions. The Government hopes this will drive up hospital performance and efficiency. But opponents claim that this will lead to a two-tier system in which 'elite' hospitals get more resources at the expense of failing hospitals. The foundations remain part of the NHS, and must invest any 'profits' they make back in to patient services.
Mrs Worrell dismissed claims that foundation hospitals would create an unequal divide between those granted foundation status and those that remain directly under Government control.
"All hospitals are due to be given the status by 2008, so you can't say there is any inequality. Those hospitals that have three-star ratings will make the first steps forward and the others can then lean from that experience before they make the same step.
"Foundation status will also give us greater financial freedom, which will allow us to attract commercial and public partners.
"We will be able to borrow money and pay it back in the long term rather than having to balance the books and break even every year," she added.
The trust qualifies for the foundation status because it has a three-star rating and it should learn by October whether it has been successful in its bid.
First the trust has to carry out a 10-week public consultation programme, which was launched on Saturday with trust members handing out leaflets about the campaign in Bury St Edmunds.
Application leaflets will be sent to more then 100,000 patients, carers and members of the public, in a bid to get people to become members of the new foundation trust so they can have a direct say in future hospital services.
Public meetings will also be held during the consultation period, which ends on April 30.