Milburn defends foundation trust hospitals

The health secretary has today moved to defend the government's controversial plans for foundation trust hospitals.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said today that the measures locally administered trusts would give local communities "more say in how services are run".

Under the plans, Foundation Trusts would be owned and controlled by the public at a local rather than national level, so allowing the public and staff will to elect hospital governors.

So far 32 NHS trusts have applied for foundation status and the health secretary is expected to bring forward plans, including extra financial support, to help every NHS hospital become a Foundation Trust over the next five years. The trusts, the government have said, will be subject to NHS standards and inspections, and will have to work with other hospitals to improve healthcare throughout the service.

The policy, Mr Milburn said, would not threaten the integrity of the NHS, but locally administered trusts would provide better care and encourage more "innovation in service delivery".

On the question of funding, Mr Milburn said: "There will be payment by results but NHS Foundation Trusts cannot make a profit or pay a dividend. There will be a legal lock on their NHS assets ensuring their continued use for NHS patients and the proportion of the income NHS Foundation trusts can earn from private patients will be capped at current levels."

However, the Conservative Party has said that the plans exhibit the "contradictions" within the Labour Party and the NHS will ultimately pay a "very heavy price" in the long run.

Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: “It is impossible for foundation hospitals to be at the same time both genuinely reforming and diverse and consistent with the Labour Party’s traditional view of a monopolistic NHS. The prime minister must finally make up his mind.

“The sad truth is that ministers know what reform is needed to enable the NHS to provide the healthcare the British people deserve, but have neither the courage nor the ability to carry it through. This task might fall to the next Conservative government.”

He added that the main thrust of the proposal – the local element – was redundant as ministers would retain "huge control over how Foundation Hospitals operate" through the regulator. And so, Dr Fox said, neither patients nor staff would have any influence over how the trusts were run.


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