AN assurance of quality, more local control and better buildings are among the benefits of foundation trust status, West Suffolk Hospital’s chief executive says.
Regulators awarded the Bury St Edmunds hospital foundation trust status last week, with the independent regulator Monitor saying the trust had demonstrated excellent performance in delivering quality services and ensuring patient safety, sound financial management and robust plans for the future.
Trust chief executive Stephen Graves said on Wednesday that one of the benefits of going through the foundation trust status was the high level of external review the hospital had to undergo, on top of the usual Care Quality Commission reviews.
“The public can be assured that external people have been looking at what we do because part of the process we went through has been investigated to a high standard,” he said. “I’m not saying that means we won’t make mistakes. But they look at clinical governance to make sure that if anything goes wrong the systems are in place where more senior people are alerted and look at it.”
If the trust fails to maintain those standards, it can be deregistered as a foundation trust by the regulators. Only five trusts have been given this status this year, bringing the number up to 141, with 113 still awaiting approval.
Mr Graves said the idea was to create an organisation that can run the hospital more independently from the Department of Health. There are 5,000 patient public members of the trust with a board of governors that includes 14 public and five staff members.
Mr Graves said that would give greater local control and help allow services to be tailored to local needs, particularly once the primary care trust was replaced by general practitioners’ commissioning groups.
He stressed that the hospital could not choose to abandon services, for example, if something did not make money. “It’s only if commissioning groups decide they don’t want a service that we can stop doing it,” he said.
However, it would be able to offer services it felt there was demand for. “We could provide a service that’s currently provided by somebody else if we thought we could do it better,” he said. “We would talk to commissioning groups about what we wanted to do.”
He saw the trust having a greater focus on consultants doing outpatient clinics at Newmarket and Sudbury Hospitals or at GP surgeries where there was the demand.
“It’s more sensible for one person to travel to them than to have 15 people travelling the other way,” he said. “You wouldn’t do it in a city where you have a large number of people in one place with good transport links.
“Trying to go where our patients are, for some services, is the right way forward.”
Any financial surpluses a foundation trust has can be reinvested in the buildings, but Mr Graves said there were no plans for major new buildings at West Suffolk Hospital.
“The hospital has been here for about 40 years and we recognise we need to upgrade the buildings we’ve got,” he said. “We’ve got refurbishment going on in the wards and slowly but surely we’ll go round the hospital improving the ward environment.”
nRoger Quince has been reappointed as chairman of the board of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust by the Appointments Commission, it announced on Wednesday. Mr Quince, who lives in Whepstead will hold the role until December 31, 2015. He was first appointed chairman of the board in 2008.