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NHS: Foundation Trusts

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 29 January 2009

Statement

My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health, (Ben Bradshaw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have today laid before Parliament their response (Cm 7528) to the Health Committee’s report into NHS foundation trusts and Monitor.

NHS foundation trusts (FTs) are a key part of the Government’s reform programme in the NHS. FTs are delivering high standards of care and good financial performance. The annual health-check ratings produced in October 2008 by the Healthcare Commission showed that, of the 42 trusts rated “excellent” for both quality of services and use of resources, 38 were FTs.

The Government welcome the committee’s report. Since first being authorised in April 2004, the number of FTs has grown steadily. Of the 225 acute and mental health trusts eligible to apply for FT status, 113—just over half—are now FTs. Now is a good time to take stock of their progress.

One of the key strengths of the FT model is the involvement of local people through being members and governors. The FT governance model is a key part of the Government’s drive to move from a centrally managed NHS towards one that is managed locally, and so more responsive to patients. A recent independent review concluded that the FT governance model works well and offers significant benefits, but also noted that there is scope for further benefits to be realised. In the light of the committee’s concerns that the governance arrangements seem to be slow to deliver benefits, the Government will work with stakeholders to ensure the potential benefits of FT governance are fully realised.

The Government are satisfied that FT status is delivering significant benefits, both in terms of patient care and corporate governance. To spread these benefits as widely as possible, all remaining acute and mental health trusts are working towards achievement of FT status by the end of 2010. The committee’s report will help to ensure that, as FTs provide an increasing amount of NHS services, patients reap the benefits offered by FT status.

In response to the committee’s concerns about no organisation having a clear remit to assess objectively whether or not FTs are becoming more innovative, the Government are exploring the options around research into FT innovation and the value added by FTs.

The Government’s response is available in the Library, and honourable Members can obtain copies from the Vote Office.