Foundation trusts have real potential but must be evaluated, says The King's Fund

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Foundation trusts have the potential to deliver real improvements in NHS performance but careful piloting and independent evaluation are needed before we can be assured of their success, says The King's Fund in a briefing in advance of the second reading of the Health and Social Care Bill.

'Suggestions that all NHS trusts should be granted foundation status in the next few years are premature when we don't know if this idea is going to work,' said Rabbi Julia Neuberger, chief executive of The King's Fund.

'Foundation trusts have the right ingredients for success. By giving NHS organisations more freedom from central government control and more power to patients and the local community, they represent a real opportunity for frontline health organisations to be more innovative and responsive to local need.

'But how real the benefits of foundation trusts will actually be is unclear. In practice, the new freedoms such as those to use the money from land sales may not actually amount to much.

'If they are too weak, a great deal of management effort and resources will have been expended for little patient benefit. If they are significant, it will be important that positive lessons from foundation trusts are identified and spread to non-foundation trusts, and that any good effects are not at their expense. Foundation trusts will also need to ensure that they use their new freedoms to improve integrated support for older people needing long-term care.

'But it is only by experimenting with foundation trusts that we can properly weigh up the costs and benefits to patients of this new organisational entity. Above all, evaluation of this idea needs to be open and independent if the government and NHS are to make it the success it deserves to be,' said Rabbi Neuberger.

Notes to editors

1. For further information, or a copy of The King's Fund briefing on the Health and Social Care Bill, please contact Daniel Reynolds in the public affairs office on 020 7307 2581 or 07831 554927.