Headlines: February 12th, 2002

Four failing NHS Trusts, which have not made significant improvements since last September, will have their management franchised to other NHS organisations.The Government says that in this instance the first four franchises will go to what it describes as ‘the best NHS managers’. The chief executive job at these trusts will go to proven NHS managers on a three year term, starting as soon as April.

To cope with future failures, the Government is to create a register of non-NHS managers and organisations who will compete with NHS managers for future franchise contracts. This work will be completed by the summer.

Seven of the 12 NHS Trusts given a zero star rating last September have made significant improvements. A further one is due to be assessed by the independent Commission for Health Improvement shortly.

The four Trusts where the management will be franchised are:

Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Trust

Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust

Hospitals NHS Trust.

Barnet and Chase Farm NHS Trust

In interviews Health Secretary Alan Milburn compared the process to that adopted for failing schools, where the headteacher and senior management are replaced with a new team. The Fresh Start scheme in education is thought to be working well, with many ex-failing schools now delivering improvements.

The NHS Confederation, which speaks up for trusts, primary care trusts and health authorities, has yet to be convinced that removing top management is the only solution. It points to the chronic shortage of staff in the South East. It says change at the top could be ‘the wrong solution to the wrong problem’.