‘Patients not being given a choice’

From the Swindon Advertiser

By Kevin Burchall

A CONSULTATION over Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust’s plans to move to foundation status has been branded “bogus.”

Swindon Trades Union Council (TUC) claims staff and users of the Great Western Hospital have been denied the chance to say whether or not they support the plans.

The Swindon TUC says the Government’s bid to create Foundation Trusts will destroy the NHS.

By next year the trust says it will have more flexibility as an independent, not-for-profit corporation with a council of governors and board of directors.

The trust will also have the power to borrow money on the open market and anyone living in the area would be eligible to become a member.

But Swindon TUC secretary Martin Wicks said the trust would be looking to make a surplus and could cut its wage bill.

He said: “The so-called consultation which has been launched by the trust is a bogus one. It has specifically excluded any discussion on foundation status itself, wanting to restrict debate to the detail of becoming one and the name.

“Indeed, the feedback form excludes respondents from indicating whether they agree with or oppose it becoming a Foundation Trust.

“The regulator which is in charge of Foundation Trusts has made it clear that they should concentrate on profit-making work, in order to build up surpluses. They’re expected to behave like any other business.”

Mr Wicks added: “Staff will be wary because the trust has refused to commit itself to maintaining NHS wages and conditions of service. What other conclusion can they draw than the trust will be looking to cut their wage bill in order to make a surplus which they can keep?”

Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust chief executive Lyn Hill-Tout said the 70 trusts to achieve foundation status in the three years since the option was introduced had offered better services for patients.

She said: “As a Foundation Trust we will be directly accountable to our local population – and so will need to ensure that we continue to provide high quality services that meet the needs of our local population.

“The reason we have not consulted on actually becoming a Foundation Trust is that all NHS Trusts in England are required to achieve Foundation Trust status – it is not something we are able to or requested to consult on.

“What we are requested to consult on are our proposals for achieving Foundation Trust status – such as our future strategy and how we will ensure local accountability through membership and governors. We will have to demonstrate within our application how we have listened to the views of staff and people living within our local communities.

“We have absolutely no intention of cutting wages or conditions of service.”

The trust is holding a series of public meetings. The next one is at Steam on September 11 from 7pm to 9pm. Details about the plans can be viewed at the hospital’s open day on Saturday, September 15 between 10am and 3pm. For more information, visit www.swindon-marlborough.nhs.uk.

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