Speaking after the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill passed today, The King’s Fund chief executive, Rabbi Julia Neuberger said:
'Foundation trusts will ensure greater freedom from government control and more accountability to patients and the local community, which will in turn encourage hospitals and other frontline health providers to be more innovative and responsive to local need with the potential for improved performance.
'However, it is essential that a robust independent evaluation process of foundation trust status is undertaken before the number of foundation trusts, or their freedoms, is expanded as the knock-on effects on the whole health system are not sufficiently understood. We therefore welcome the Secretary of State for Health's promise of an independent review to be conducted by the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection before Autumn 2005, but believe this process should start as soon as possible and run parallel with the development of foundation trusts.
'We would like foundation trusts to be assessed by the five key tests of efficiency, access, quality, accountability and impact on local stakeholders before they are extended to all hospital trusts. This will go some way to ensure that standards are raised across the board and that non-foundation trust hospitals are not left behind. Devolution means a variation, but we believe this is acceptable as long as minimum standards are high and the lessons of improvement by some are quickly learnt and spread to others. It is also important, once the dust has settled, that we examine closely the implications of the revised governance arrangements that have come out of the parliamentary process.'
As well as the introduction of foundation trusts, the Bill will also see the establishment of the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, which The King's Fund welcomes.
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For further information, or interviews with The King's Fund staff, please contact Daniel Reynolds in the public affairs team on 020 7307 2581 or 07831 554927.