Health trust steps up plans to separate
MARK NICHOLLS An NHS trust providing mental health services across Norfolk is stepping up moves to cut loose from the region's cash-strapped health system and press ahead with plans to achieve Foundation Status.
An NHS trust providing mental health services across Norfolk is stepping up moves to cut loose from the region's cash-strapped health system and press ahead with plans to achieve Foundation Status.
While remaining part of the NHS, the change will give the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Partnership the opportunity to become “self-governing” with more control over its own affairs, increased scope to develop services and greater financial freedom.
The trust, which has balanced its books over the last seven years, is currently having to make cutbacks amounting to around £5m to bail out other primary care trusts in the region which have run up multi-million pound deficits.
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But director of strategic development Paul Thain explained that if the mental health trust achieves Foundation Status, it will be better protected against being penalised for the financial mismanagement of other trusts.
The trust launched a consultation process over applying for Foundation Status, which began on Monday and runs until September 29.
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A critical part of that is recruiting 4500 “members” of the trust who will elect governors who will in turn appoint a trust board and chairperson. Those members will be recruited from the public, services users and the 2200 trust staff.
Mr Thain said: “The attraction of Foundation Trust status is that we can provide better services for our patients and we believe we will have far more stability in getting our funding and being able to plan for the future.”
Contracts with primary care trust that will purchase the mental health trust services will be for three years, rather than the current annual deals.
“It will give us more stability and as a result we can plan our services with a degree of confidence, we can also use money for the longer term,” he said.
“We have balanced our books year on year but as part of the health economy we have to contribute to help solve the problem and that has had terrible effect on us. With Foundation Trust we will have legally binding contracts so other health trusts will have to find other ways out of their financial problems.”
Money can be carried over, new services can be identified and developed, he added.
If the mental health trust gets Foundation Status, it will also be expanded to cover the whole of Norfolk, taking over services in the west of the county that are currently delivered by West Norfolk PCT, as well as continuing to cover the Waveney area.
Following the consultation period, the mental health trust will submit its application to the Department of Health and once it passes the official regulator, the trust could achieve Foundation Status some time between April and July next year.
Rather than a change of direction, Mr Thain said the trust would see the pace of improvement increase.
Some of the plans are commercially sensitive at this stage but one area the mental health trust is looking at is establishing a psychiatric intensive care unit which would cut down on specific patients have to go out of the area for specialist treatment.
He also warned that if the trust did not achieve foundation status, it could cease to exist by 2008-09 as all trusts have to have such status by then. A consequence could be mental health services being managed in the county by other health trust or even the private sector.
The public consultation gives people the chance to become members of the new trust but also shape the composition of its board. For more information call the trust on 01603 421494 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org