THE national health helpline, NHS Direct, is bidding to become a co-operative through the foundation trust scheme.
A consultation is currently underway to gauge the reaction for the public to be able to manage the service, which helps over 28 million people each year through its website and on the telephone.
Peter Hunt, Chief Executive of Mutuo, one of the major campaigners behind the trusts, welcomed the bid. He told the News: “It’s important every trust strives to reach this status because all the trusts that have the status have proved they are better managed and closer to their communities.”
He believes foundations trusts benefit from the support of the regulator, Monitor, in improving governance and relating the services they offer to the needs of the patients. Mr Hunt said foundation trusts can work on a national level, as well as a local level.
He said successful specialist foundation trusts, like Papworth Hosptial in Cambridge, have already proven themselves. He said: “As long as there is sufficient interest, foundation trusts can work at any level.”
The organisation hopes that becoming a trust will give it a greater sense of identity; foster a more communicative relationship with its customers; enable the service to draw on more volunteers and ideas; and make people care even more about the service.
Foundation trusts are different from other NHS organisations in a number of ways. Local people, hospital staff, patients and, in some cases, carers, can become members of the hospital and the hospital members can choose a board of governors to run the hospital.
Foundation trusts are not managed by the Department of Health. This means hospital managers are able to choose how they spend money, and make decisions based on the needs of the local community.
They give patients, staff and members of the public more choice over how the hospital is run. The government wants all NHS trusts to have foundation status within the next five years.
David Edmonds, NHS Direct Chair, said: “We believe the time is right to become an NHS foundation trust. This will enable us to work more closely with our users and our partners in health and social care to better understand their needs and give us a clearer role within the health community. Through membership, our staff will also help us to transform their ideas and concerns into improvements for both users and staff.”
NHS Direct is proposing that both staff and the public should have the opportunity to become members of the foundation trust. The organisation is calling on members of the public to make their views known to them before the final deadline in March 31st.
Full details of the consultation is available online at: www.nhsdirect.uk/foundationtrust or by calling 01908 689 842.