Headlines: May 15th, 2003

The first 29 hospital trusts to be invited to apply for Foundation status – subject to Parliament passing the Health and Social Care Bill – have been named by the Health Secretary Alan Milburn. The announcement brought an immediate reaction from the public service union, UNISON, which said it showed the government was intent on storming ahead with what the union called a misguided plan.The trusts named by Mr.Milburn will submit their applications by the autumn and ministers will then decide which will become NHS Foundation Trusts from April 2004. Mr.Milburn stressed the importance that would be placed on Trusts being able to raise standards across the NHS. All hospitals, he repeated, would have the opportunity to become Foundation Trusts over the next four to five years.

Applications from the shortlisted trusts must include full consultation with their local communities and other health stakeholders. The Secretary of State said freeing them from day to day Whitehall control would encourage greater local innovation in how services were delivered and would give communities more say in how hospitals are run. Communities in poorer areas, he said, would particularly benefit and he pointed out that 12 of the 29 are in the bottom quarter of the most deprived areas in the country.

The chosen trusts are Addenbrooke’s, Aintree, Basildon and Thurrock General, Bradford, Calderdale and Huddersfield, City Hospital Sunderland, the Countess of Chester, Doncaster and Bassetlaw, Essex Rivers Healthcare, Gloucestershire, Guy’s and St Thomas’ s, Homerton University, King’s College Hospital, Moorfields Eye Hospital, North Tees and Hartlepool, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Papworth, Peterborough, Rotherham General, Royal Devon and Exeter, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Southern Derbyshire Acute, Stockport , Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Royal Marsden, the Queen Victoria, University Hospital Birmingham, University College London and Walsall.

UNISON head of health, Karen Jennings, said the announcement showed the government wanted to storm ahead with what she labelled “this misguided plan”, without even waiting for the Bill to go through Parliament. She said the union would continue to oppose the establishment of Foundation Trusts within Parliament, through the Labour Party and locally.