Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Foundation Trust Status discussion

The issue of "Foundation Trust" status for the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals was discussed at Copeland Council this afternoon.

Not for the first time, there was some confusion evident about which of the multiple NHS consultations which are in progress was affected.

By my count there are no fewer than five NHS public consultations affecting all or part of Copeland which are either underway now or due to start early next year.

1) The "CLOSER TO HOME" consultation about the future of the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlise, and all the community hospitals in North Cumbria including those at Keswick and Millom. This consultation has been extended to 1st February and is the subject of heated debate.

2) An equivalent consultation about hospitals in South Cumbria and Lancashire which is due to start early next year and which may have significant implications for Furness General Hospital in Barrow.

3) A Mental Health care consultation for Cumbria as a whole, also due to start early next year.

4) Foundation Trust status for the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals Trust - this is about new governance arrangements for the part of the NHS which runs the West Cumberland and Carlisle hospitals.

The idea is that as a Foundation Trust the acute hospitals organisation would have more independence within the NHS and strengthen public participation. Local residents would be able to become members of the Trust, and would then have a vote in electing the "Governors" of the trust, who in turn would elect key members of the trust board.

5) There is a similar consultation about Foundation Trust status for the Morecombe Bay hospitals trust, and a number of parishes in the South of Copeland are among the consultees for this.

I gave a very guarded welcome to the Foundation Trust status proposals as they appear to address the democratic deficit which has been building up in the NHS in the past ten years, beginning with the abolition of Community Health Councils and continuing with the abolition of their replacements, the Patient and Public Involvement Forums.

If these Foundation Trusts do get set up, it will be important that as many residents as possible take up membership (which is free.) But in the meantime we need to be extremely vigilant about how the arrangements for Foundation Trust status are progressing and what the consequences are for funding and services.


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