29 hospitals apply for foundation trust status

It has been revealed that 29 hospitals have applied for the controversial NHS foundation trust status.

The hospitals will submit their applications by autumn 2003 and the government is expected to make its decision on which can be given the green light by April 2004.

Under current plans, all hospitals will have the opportunity of becoming a Foundation Trust over the next four or five years. These initial applications for trust status will be subject to Parliament passing the Health and Social Care Bill.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn today stressed the importance ministers would place on trusts being able to raise standards across the NHS.

Mr Milburn said that freeing NHS Foundation Trusts from day-to-day Whitehall control would "encourage greater local innovation in how services are delivered" and give communities a far greater say in how hospitals are run.

He also said that communities in poorer areas "will particularly benefit". Twelve out of the 29 NHS trusts are in the bottom quarter of the most deprived areas in the country.

"Where these first 29 lead I hope the rest of the NHS will follow," he said.

"Subject of course to Parliament I want every NHS hospital to have the opportunity of becoming an NHS Foundation Trust over the next four to five years."

The health and social care bill, which contains the plans to create foundation hospitals, was passed on Monday night by 304 votes to 230.

The narrow 74-vote victory reflected one of the biggest domestic rebellions since Labour was elected in 1997 as around 30 Labour MPs joined the Opposition.

Health union Unison is opposed to the proposals as they believe that it is the beginning of a two-tier health srevice.

The union's Head of Health, Karen Jennings, said: “We are not convinced that the foundations are the way forward, so far as delivering improvements to the health service.

“And obviously a number of MPs and the public are not convinced either. The future of the National Health Service is at stake. We won’t sit back and see it broken up.”


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