Headlines: January 5th, 2005

Gateshead Health NHS Trust will today become the latest to gain Foundation status following approval from Monitor, the independent regulator. It joins four other trusts whose authorisations took effect on January 1st. Another wave of authorisations is expected in April.The Gateshead trust joins the Barnsley District General Hospitals, Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal Hospitals, Harrogate Healthcare and South Tyneside Healthcare trusts in gaining new status this month, bringing the total of foundation trusts to 25.

Decisions on applications from the Southend Hospital and West Suffolk Hospitals Trusts will be taken by Monitor at a later date after it deferred consideration. Two applicants – Nottingham City Hospitals and Burton Hospitals NHS trusts withdrew their applications and will carry out further preparation work before applying again at a later stage.

The eleven remaining trusts whose applications were originally supported by the Secretary of State for Health in July last year, prior to their making formal applications to Monitor, are expected to be have their status authorised from April.

Announcing the latest authorisations the Health Minister, John Hutton, said they marked a further step towards decentralisation, freeing more of the NHS from day-to-day Whitehall control and giving patients more power to influence local services.

He said the existing 20 Foundation Trusts were already reporting a significant increase in the level of interest, enthusiasm and engagement with their local communities, and were making a real difference in encouraging local innovation in the ways that services were delivered. “The new status has in effect given NHS Foundation Trusts the freedom to think differently, and they have been using their new capital and management freedoms,” he said.

He cited the examples of the Homerton University Hospital Trust that had been able go ahead with building a new perinatal centre two years ahead of schedule, and of Moorfields Hospital, which was able to begin a 15 million pound development of a new clinical facility two years earlier than it would have done.