Debt-laden hospitals trust applies for foundation status
A hospital trust whose vast debts put it at the centre of takeover fears has sealed its ambitious bid to sever Government ties.
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) has formally made an application for Foundation Trust status, which all health organisations must obtain or face being taken over.
Health campaigners who had feared the trust's financial woes and previous management turmoil would effectively rule them out, gave it their blessing. Graham Webster, vice-chairman of Health Initiative Cornwall, said: "We are all backing the bid because we think it is important for Cornwall to have its own Foundation Trust. We do not want Cornish hospitals to be taken over by anyone else or run from outside the county.
"I genuinely hope this is successful, the alternative is unthinkable."
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The RCHT submitted the hefty application following approval from regional health chiefs and on the heels of a large public consultation.
Since then it has signed up 8,000 'members' who can vote or stand for the controlling council of governors.
Lezli Boswell, chief executive of the RCHT, said it was a strong position.
"We are pleased with the progress we are making in our application to become an NHS Foundation Trust and most importantly in our improved quality and performance achievements," she said.
"RCHT now has some of the lowest waiting times in the south of England.
"There have been no same sex accommodation breaches since August 2011 and no cases of the MRSA bloodstream infection in over 12 months, putting us amongst a top flight of 35 trusts nationwide.
"These are significant improvements and due to the hard work of our staff."
Ms Boswell said the trust's focus remained on "continually improving patient care.
"It is this which will enable us to become the successful NHS Foundation Trust that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly deserve."
Doubts had been raised in the past about the chances of success for the Truro based trust, which also manages St Michael's Hospital in Hayle and West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance.
Last year it discontinued a longstanding and expensive action against former chief executive John Watkinson, who was unfairly dismissed on the grounds he was a whistleblower. It is also wrangling large debts – currently £25million – although the trust has reached an agreement that a loan to repay the sum will be rescheduled if it becomes a Foundation Trust.
The application will be assessed by the Department of Health then passed onto the independent organisation Monitor, which will go through the bid with a fine tooth comb to ensure RCHT can stand on its own two feet.
If granted Foundation Trust status, RCHT will join the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and Torbay Hospital in the Westcountry.
Plymouth's Derriford Hospital relaunched a stalled bid last month and hopes to make a formal submission this autumn. North Devon Healthcare Trust launched its bid in October.