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Foundation Trusts

Volume 529: debated on Tuesday 7 June 2011

12. What recent assessment he has made of the ability of all NHS hospital trusts to become foundation trusts by 2014. (57823)

The Department is currently in the process of working with strategic health authorities to establish timetables for every NHS trust to achieve foundation trust status by April 2014, and to agree the actions that are required to achieve that. That work is ongoing, and once plans are finalised, they will be published locally.

The Minister will have to make some difficult decisions very soon about specialist children’s heart provision. In my part of the world, the choice will be between the NHS trusts in Newcastle and Leeds. Can he confirm that those decisions will be based on clinical outcomes, not political expediency?

I can give the hon. Lady a categorical assurance that they will be based on clinical outcomes, not political considerations. I hope she will accept that it would be inappropriate for me to say anything further at this point in the proceedings, because we are in the middle of a consultation process at arm’s length from Ministers.

Over the past 12 months, the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Foundation Trust has spent thousands of pounds of public money in connection with a vacant site—the former Peterborough district hospital site— and has yet to take it to market, despite having a £38 million deficit this year. Will my right hon. Friend ask Monitor to ensure that trusts make use of, and dispose of, valuable public assets in a timely way, in the best interests of both the taxpayer and the local health economy?

I hope that I can reassure my hon. Friend by giving him a straightforward yes in answer to that question.

Will the Minister look urgently at what is happening in Trafford? The Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust has decided not to seek foundation status and is looking to transfer its acute services to another local provider. One difficulty with that is the projected funding shortfall of £55 million. Will he take a close interest in that, and seek to resolve the current uncertainty?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that question. I am aware of that situation and of the problems at that hospital. My understanding is that the strategic health authority is working hard with the trust to seek a solution. That work will continue until a viable solution is found.