Health minister ‘immensely disappointed’ as Norwich hospital ditches staff-ownership plans

Norman Lamb MP, pictured at Blakeney Hotel. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Norman Lamb MP, pictured at Blakeney Hotel. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Health minister Norman Lamb said today he was 'immensely disappointed' with the decision of the region's biggest hospital to drop a move to become a mutual.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. - Credit: PA

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital was chosen as one of nine trusts in the country to look at the mutualisation model of ownership under which the hospital could have become partly owned by staff.

But the move met opposition from unions who see mutualisation as a step to privatisation.

Mr Lamb, MP for North Norfolk and care minister, suggested the hospital dropped its interest in becoming a mutual because it was under investigation by regulator Monitor for persistently missing waiting time targets.

'It is immensely disappointing,' Mr Lamb said. 'I obviously understand that they are under investigation from Monitor and they are focusing a lot of their attention on addressing that.'

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A spokesman for the N&N said the hospital would proceed with its own programme to engage staff instead of pursuing mutualisation.

'Our particular interest in the mutuals project was to learn from others about their experience of enhanced staff engagement and the potential for that to result in benefits for patients,' the spokesman said.

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'Since then we have received further information about the project which has highlighted the opportunities that are already available to us as a foundation trust.

'In light of that, we are withdrawing from the mutuals project so that we can instead progress our own comprehensive staff engagement programme.'

Mr Lamb said it was vital for the NHS to find alternative methods of operating and a model which he believes will engage staff more was one of those ways.

'There are those who think this is privatisation. It is nothing of the sort,' he said.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services, is continuing to look at the mutual model.

The trusts were given £100,000 in November to explore mutualisation after a review from think tank the King's Fund recommended NHS trusts should look into becoming mutuals.

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