Foundation Status – bad for the health of the NHS

Swindon & Marlborough NHS Trust is holding what they describe as a consultation (from July 9th until September 29th) on the proposal to become a Foundation Trust. Sadly this is not a genuine consultation, one in which the pros and cons of a proposal are seriously discussed. The Trust has stated that it is not a consultation over whether or not Foundation status is a good idea. Swindon TUC is therefore appealing for a genuine discussion on what Foundation status involves, what its consequences are.

We are opposed to the government’s policy which seeks to introduce a competitive health market, in which free standing Hospital Trusts compete with each other for patients. The Trust is trying to sell their proposal as a means of gaining ‘local control’. In fact it will give local management a certain freedom from NHS control. But, the main consequences of such a move will be the commercialisation of the service. Their first ‘strategic goal’ will be to gain patients from other Trusts.

Foundation Trusts are said to be “independent, not-for-profit public benefit corporations”. In fact when they can keep their surpluses, they are going to organise their ‘business’ in such a way as to maximise their surpluses. One of the advantages of Foundation status for the management is that they can withdraw from nationally negotiated wages and conditions of service for staff. The Trust has refused to give any commitment that it will not do so. If they do, rest assured that it will not be to improve the wages or to cut the workload for staff.

Whilst the government has said it will maintain treatment free at the point of use, its ‘market’ is undermining the foundations of the NHS as a national service in which different parts of the system co-operated with each other. In its place are competing Trusts fighting each other for the available work.

We have seen the introduction of private companies into what is in many respects a rigged market. Companies have been guaranteed money even when they have not fulfilled their contracts. These companies have thus been paid for operations they have not done, whilst financial pressures have been raised on NHS Trusts. This is just a first brief comment on the ‘consultation’ over Foundation status. We will be making a submission opposing Foundation status and will be producing a briefing which explains in detail the government’s policy, driven by their ideological commitment to ‘market’ methods.

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