Hospital goes public on new trust plan

Plans for a hospital to break away from the NHS and put people power in charge by April 2008 were revealed for the first time at a public meeting last night.

Plans for a hospital to break away from the NHS and put people power in charge by April 2008 were revealed for the first time at a public meeting last night.

Although King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital has previously said it hopes to become a foundation trust, it has never gone into further detail - or revealed it plans to change its name to the West Norfolk University Hospital.

People living around King's Lynn are to be involved in a three month consultation on the bid, starting in July.

Every home in the area will be sent an information pack, along with application forms to become members of the new trust and help to form it.

And it is hoped that a bid to the department of health will be made in October this year and foundation status achieved by April 2008.

Talking at the QEH's patient and public involvement forum's annual meeting in King's Lynn on Tuesday night, Ruth May, its chief chief executive, said: “We are serious about this. We are serious about wanting the QEH to become a foundation Trust. If we do not become a foundation trust we will get taken over by another foundation trust.”

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With foundation status local people and staff would decide how to run the hospital, she said.

Both would be invited to become members of the trust, it is hoped there would be more than 2,500, and then they would appoint about the 30 governors, who would then appoint the trust's bosses.

Mrs May also told the meeting it was hoped to have a new hospital built by 2017, either at the existing 47 acre site or another location.

It is also hoped to changed the hospital's name to the West Norfolk University Hospital on a national level, keeping its name as the QEH locally, so that it more easily defined from other Queen Elizabeth Hospitals across the country when it comes to performance tables.

Although it would remain a part of the NHS it would have more independence, could run its own finances, pay staff differently and would be able to invest surpluses, she said.

Foundation status would mean the hospital could borrow cash to develop services and, instead of having to pay off its £11m debt within a set period of time, it could string its debt out to make it less “painful”, said Mrs May.

Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust has also started a bid to become a foundation trust and so far about 1,000 members of the public and 2,000 members of staff have signed up to the trust.

However, its bid stalled earlier this month because of Norfolk Primary Care Trust's £47m deficit - as one of the main trusts that would buy services from the Norfolk and Waveney, it was seen that it could create too much of a financial liability.