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Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:34 pm on 13th October 2003.

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Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat 8:34 pm, 13th October 2003

Shortly before the House resumed, there was an interesting debate on the issue of consultation. I apologise to the Committee for not being able to be present. The question of authorisation of trust status is one to which we have paid considerable attention, not least in the light of the statement by the Minister here and by his colleague in another place about the keystone of foundation trusts being the extent to which they are creations that are owned by the local authority in which they exist. Amendment No. 135, which stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, would address exactly that point.

Something that has not always been at the forefront of our deliberations on the Bill is that an acute trust is one part—admittedly a very key part—of the local health economy. However, it is only one part and the partnership with which it does its work is of key importance. The decision to apply for foundation status can work in practice only if it has the support not only of key individuals in the community—I note that, in some parts of the country, they are already being consulted about the proposal that their local hospitals should become foundation trusts—but of organisations that have a key part to play in the health economy. That is why our amendment would create a requirement for an application to be endorsed by the relevant local authorities, primary care trusts, patients forums and representatives of staff.

It is unlikely that a foundation trust could operate to the standards required throughout the Bill if it did not, from its inception, have the support of the key bodies in the area. If those bodies do not give their consent to the application, it is highly likely that the whole creation will be flawed from the beginning, not least because the trust's governance arrangements will be set at an early stage. The bodies that represent the people who have now and will continue to have the biggest investment in the NHS and in the outputs of foundation trusts must be involved in them.

If an applicant foundation trust cannot convince the bodies set out in the amendment, there will be a significant question over whether it can convince others in the wider population and, indeed, conduct its business, once it is established. An application should, as a matter of good practice, have the endorsement of those bodies. I hope that the Minister will give the amendment a positive response. I beg to move.