Mental Health Body Seeks ‘Financial Freedom’

A mental health body hopes to gain greater financial freedom to help it deliver a better service to patients. Bosses of Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Trust in Chester are consulting over Foundation Trust plans. However, the proposal to become one of the first mental health Trusts to achieve increased autonomy comes at a difficult time because of a financial squeeze from the Government and locally within the NHS.

The Trust, which employs 2,700 staff, is seeking views on its plans to become a Foundation Trust and is recruiting the public, service users and carers to join the prospective organisation.

The Government would like all NHS Trusts to be in a position to apply for Foundation Trust status by 2008.

Trust chairman David Eva said: “Foundation Trust status will enable Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Trust to develop convenient, tailored services which respond to the needs of our population and offer individuals choice.

“It will also provide us with the opportunity to strengthen and widen the involvement of members of the public, stakeholders, service users and carers in all aspects of our work.”

Peter Cubbon, chief executive, said: “We believe that achieving this status will secure a strong future for the Trust’s services as it will provide us with new financial freedoms and the ability to develop more responsive local services.”

The only cloud on the horizon is that each year every NHS Trust is required by Government to make efficiency savings and in 2006/07 the Trust must save 2.5%, or £2.1m, in income.

This is in addition to cost pressures being passed on by local Primary Care Trusts which fund treatment.

The Trust’s preferred option is to close unused beds – amounting to one in five beds across the organisation – rather than reducing community services, which have proved effective in keeping patients out of hospital and providing the care they need at home.

Geoff Ryall-Harvey, of the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forum, said closing unused beds was ‘not necessarily a bad thing’ but said alternative arrangements must be in place.

He said: “I think all Trusts are going to become Foundation Trusts. Once it’s decided, they may as well get in before everybody else does.Theywon’t be allowed to fail.”

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