Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 16th October 2003.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour 12:30 pm, 16th October 2003

My noble friend may wish to consider this point between now and Report. There will be any number of reasons for foundation trusts being involved in mergers, but there will be occasions where a merger takes place because of the weakness of one organisation and it is felt that a more successful organisation should, in essence, take over. There have been a number of examples of that within NHS trusts. However, the governance arrangements in such mergers are not always satisfactory.

Let me give an example. In my own patch some years ago, the Birmingham Heartlands Trust merged with the Solihull NHS Trust, which was in great difficulty. The Heartlands Trust had very strong leadership. Having agreed to the merger, the first thing that happened is that the people who gave incredibly strong leadership to the Heartlands Trust had to apply for their own jobs within the new trust structure. On my reading of the clause, that would happen again in such circumstances.

It does not make sense. It makes sense where you have a merger of organisations of equal strength, but my reading of the clause is that where a weak performer merges with a stronger organisation, the new governance arrangements in Schedule 1 would, nevertheless, kick into place. I argued, and the House accepted, that there should be transitional arrangements for NHS trusts going forward to NHS foundation trust status, so there is a case for giving the regulator discretion, in the circumstances I have discussed, to allow the governing body arrangements—particularly in relation to the board of directors—to continue in order to achieve continuity. My noble friend may care to look at that issue between now and Report.