Foundation Hospital Trusts

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The introduction of Foundation Hospital Trusts is a key plank of New Labour's NHS modernisation policy. The idea was that of Alan Milburn, who is coordinating Labour's campaign for the general election in the UK. Foundation status allows a hospital to become self-governing, to borrow money from banks, and to retain any surpluses for reinvestment in the hospital. [1]

The name 'Foundation Hospital' has been cleverly chosen to suggest financial stability, and building a solid foundation for the future. But Bradford Teaching Hospitals, one of the first foundation trusts, ran into serious financial difficulties within just six months of achieving foundation status [2]. By January 2005, the Bradford trust's situation had deteriorated to the point where, according to The Observer, it had to cut services such as sandwiches for elderly patients admitted at night, and security guard patrols of its car park. [3]

Many critics of the Foundation Hospitals scheme have claimed that it is a disguised form of privatization. According to Professor Allyson Pollock, head of health policy at University College London: "Under the proposed legislation NHS hospital trusts and private sector bodies can apply to become 'public benefit corporations' or foundation trusts - a new form of mutual company that does not have shareholders on the board. However, this is simply a fig leaf for privatisation below board level. The bill allows any private sector body - from Bupa to Boots - to apply to be a foundation trust and run NHS services. Furthermore, the board can contract out clinical services directly to the private sector - in which case shareholders of those private companies will make a claim on scarce NHS resources." [4]

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