NHS Foundation Trust Consultation
January 29th 2012The Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust (LCHS) is running a consultation until April 16th on proposed changes to the structure of local health services. The aim is to become a Community NHS Foundation Trust. Ellen Armistead, Chief Executive of LCHS, come to the Conoco Philips Room on Friday January 27th to explain what they want to do.
MembershipOne of the big drives is to give local service users a bigger say in how the new Trust is run. The public can become Trust members, and this entails any level of involvement from merely getting their newsletter through to providing feedback on the Trust's services or even standing as a public governor. The membership is pretty open: more or less anyone over 16 with a stake in local health services can join, subject to a few reasonable restrictions such as not being a known nurse-beater or a vocal Nazi sympathiser and old-people hater.
The Trust will have 35 governors. 29 of these will be elected from amongst the public, patients, and NHS staff. The remaining 6 will be appointed to represent various bodies such as the LCC, the district council and LINk (HealthWatch). This board of governors is to work closely with the Trust's board of directors, offering financial oversight and representing the community's wishes.
New FreedomsOther potential benefits of this change include greater freedoms to invest and innovate. At the moment if the LCHS has a surplus left over at the end of the year they have to give it back to central government. A Foundation Trust can take that money and reinvest it the next year. In theory this might give them added incentive to make savings.
There will also be more freedom for the Trust to choose its priorities and decide how to deliver services. Crucially, they can "develop flexible working practices, including staff rewards and appropriate incentives to recruit and retain the best staff" according to the brochure.
Does this mean we'll see excessive pay rises and fat-cat bonuses at the top tiers of the medical profession? Hopefully greater involvement from the general public through Trust membership and governors will provide the kind of restraint that will prevent this getting out of hand in the way it has done in the banking sector.
QuestionsI asked Ellen Armistead how much this change would cost.
"No extra," she said, "although there are some costs associated with managing the membership."
That sounds promising, particularly when the NHS in Lincolnshire faces financial challenges due to an ageing population, a projected increase in population over the next few years, and the general government belt-tightening we're experiencing.
"Are we in a stronger position to protect Louth Hospital?" Councillor Pauline Watson asked.
The hospital has recently been visited by assessors, Catherine Wylie, North East General Manager of the LCHS, explained in response, and "Louth stood out as one of the best at moving patients to where they needed to be. That gave us and the assessors confidence that we're doing the right thing and we need to do more of it. Louth hospital is probably safer than it's ever been."
Learn more and get involvedIf you're interested in taking part in the consultation there's an online questionnaire at www.lincolnshirecommunityhealthservices.nhs.uk/. There's also a separate form on that website if you want to become a member of the Trust.
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