WEST Suffolk Hospital has been awarded NHS Foundation Trust status by regulators.
The award will give the Bury St Edmunds hospital greater independence to develop and tailor services to the needs of local people, according to the trust.
Independent regulator Monitor said the trust had demonstrated excellent performance in delivering quality services and ensuring patient safety, sound financial management and robust plans for the future.
Roger Quince, chairman of the trust’s board, said: “We are very pleased to have achieved Foundation Trust status. Not only will it give us more freedom to develop services for our patients but will also offer local people the chance to have a much greater say in decisions about our future.
“This has been a long but ultimately worthwhile journey. I would like to thank all of our staff for their hard work during the application process and everyone from our local community who has supported us by becoming members and shadow governors. It has been a tough process and it is noteworthy that only four other acute trusts have been authorised this calendar year and four during 2010.”
The new status means the trust is now free from central government control and can decide its own strategy. It will be able to borrow money to invest in new buildings and retain surpluses for reinvestment.
Stephen Graves, chief executive, said: “This fantastic news comes at the end of a successful year for West Suffolk, during which we received a positive report from the Care Quality Commission, were named as the country’s top hospital for quality of care and presented with two national patient safety awards.
“We were also recongised in the Dr Foster guide after recording low mortality rates.
“However, we do not always get it right. As such, it is important to stress that our focus is on continuous improvement and delivering the highest quality standards as set down by regulators such as the Care Quality Commission. We will also need to deliver the year-on-year efficiency savings required by the NHS.”
Around 5,000 people are public members of the Foundation Trust, with a board of governors including 14 public and five staff members operating in shadow form since 2009.
A further eight seats are filled by representatives from partner organisations, such as NHS Suffolk, NHS Norfolk, local councils and voluntary groups.
n Good news for patients – see Page 34