Royal Cornwall Hospital given green light to go it alone
A hospital trust which less than five years ago was technically bankrupt has won Government backing to go it alone.
The Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) has been given the green light to pass on to the last stage of a journey which could grant it coveted Foundation Trust status.
Chief executive Lezli Boswell said it was excellent news.
"Getting to the third and final stage of the NHS Foundation Trust authorisation process is a major achievement and recognition of the significant progress we have made in recent months," she said.
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The RCHT formally submitted its bid to become a Foundation Trust in February with a hefty application to the Department of Health.
This followed approval from regional health chiefs and a large public consultation in which 8,000 "members" were signed up who can either vote or stand for the controlling council of governors.
Foundation Trust hospitals remain part of the NHS, but have a degree of independence from the Government and regional health authorities which confers greater self governance. Over the last eight months, the Department of Health has scrutinised the RCHT's detailed bid to ensure that it can stand on its own two feet.
The application will now pass on to the independent health regulator, Monitor, who will make the final decision.
Mrs Boswell said passing to the crucial, final stage was a testament to improvements made and its staff.
"The Department of Health has recognised our work to improve the quality and safety of our care and the fact that we have improved our financial position.
"I want to thank all of our staff for the part they have played in getting Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust to this point for everything they do every day for our patients."
In a letter sent out to all 8,000 members, Mrs Boswell and RCHT chairman Martin Watts welcomed the "major achievement."
It said: "The Monitor assessment will quite rightly be rigorous, however if we can maintain the continuous improvements in patient care and performance then we can be confident of becoming an NHS Foundation Trust in 2013."
If Monitor grants the coveted status, it will be a remarkable turnaround for the Truro based health trust which also runs West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance and St Michael's in Hayle and has seen more than its fair share of turmoil in recent years.
At one point, the trust was more than £50 million in the red and technically bankrupt.
The years-old debts have been brought down to less than £22million and should Foundation Trust status be conferred, the trust has an agreement that repayments will be rescheduled.
If granted Foundation Trust status, RCHT will join the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and Torbay Hospital.
Plymouth's Derriford Hospital has yet to make a formal submission while North Devon Healthcare Trust is hoping to submit its bid to the Department of Health early next year.