"Foundation Trust Hospitals and the Public"

(as the patient),

There are some 130 Foundation Trust Hospitals the country. The principles behind the NHS foundation trusts are stated as: “Building on the sense of ownership that local people and staff feel for their hospital and health service.”

Members of the public and employed staff can become members of their Foundation Trust Hospital. “This gives staff and local people a real stake in the future of their hospital.”

The benefits of membership are:

You can receive information on your local trust.

You can elect and or stand for election to the Board of Governors. As a governor you play a role in the overall direction of the trust.

The problem with all the above is that the concept of individuals/governors having a say in the running of the local hospital and bringing about improvement in the quality of care for patients, staff and relatives is, in my experience, flawed.

The individuals who are responsible for the day-to-day running of the hospital are the Board of Directors. Of necessity, the directors make those decisions every day 24/7.

In this real time situation, governors are not and can not realistically be consulted, in depth, about the hospital. Therefore, by and large they are powerless to bring about meaningful change or to influence the decisions made by the Board of Directors. I know of cases when governors became aware of the boards decisions only when they read of them in the local press.

Further, so called public governors are isolated from the people who elected them. Governors are not allowed to have the contact details of their constituents. All contact must be made via the trust administration.

As a constituent if I have a problem/concern about my local hospital it would be a waste of time going to my elected governor. A governor is prohibited from taking up individual cases or for that matter expressing an opinion. Governors call only deal with “issues” not complaints.

If the public are to have a real influence in the running of their hospitals then it can only be done by ensuring that governors have real power and authority and have ongoing contact with their constituents.

For me the acid test of the worth whileness of being a governor has to be seen against the background of the recent terrible loss of life that has occurred in foundation trust hospitals. All hospitals had their Board of Governors but they where either complicit in these tragic events or were powerless do anything to stop it.

There must be a realignment of Directors and Governor authority and accountability if the public participation in health care is to work.

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