THE TRUST which runs St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester has been given the ultimate recognition.
The Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust was named yesterday as the first acute trust in Sussex to be awarded Foundation Trust (FT) status.
The new status means it will enjoy greater independence from Whitehall control, have the freedom to retain and invest any financial surpluses into local patient services, and be run more democratically, with the direct involvement of people living in the county.
The trust, which also runs Worthing Hospital and Southlands in Shoreham, has worked for three years to demonstrate to both Monitor (the independent regulator of Foundation Trusts) and the Department of Health it was worthy of the new freedom.
Marianne Griffiths, the trust’s chief executive, said: “I have always known the staff in our hospitals strive to give their patients the very best possible care, and now this award shows everyone just how good they are.
“Becoming a Foundation Trust is extraordinarily hard, and so I hope local people can take comfort – and pride – from the fact that their hospital services have been recognised as among the very best.
“For the last three years there has been a rigorous examination of every single aspect of the work our staff do, and Monitor has concluded that our services are excellent, they are safe, they are efficient and they are sustainable. It is the biggest vote of confidence we could receive.”
The formal change of status for the authority, which was formed in April 2009, bringing together two trusts which had run up debts, will take place on July 1.
Becoming a Foundation Trust has grown increasingly hard in recent years, as the standards demanded for approval have grown more stringent – across the country only one other acute trust has been granted the elite status in the last 14 months.
A spokesman explained that qualifying to become a Foundation Trust used to be largely a matter of demonstrating financial stability; that still matters, but it is now essential to demonstrate staff are delivering excellent clinical care, day in, day out.
He said Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust has consistently been rated among the best-performing NHS organisations for the last two years, and it is ‘that strong and enduring track record which has prompted Monitor to grant the trust FT status’. Since the trust was formed, more nurses have been employed, new facilities have been built, and services have been overhauled. In addition, waiting time targets are consistently hit and debts have been repaid at the rate of £5m a year.
All FTs have a public membership, and the trust already has some 7,500 members. To join, contact Rachel Morris by emailing Rachel.Morris@wsht.nhs.uk or call 01903 285140. See www.westernsussexhospitals.nhs.uk