NHS invites bids for local health services

Foundation trusts are being invited to bid to take over a mental health service in Bedfordshire as part of the National Health Service’s drive to ensure all health services are supplied by freestanding organisations.

The bid could be launched as a joint venture with the private sector and may form the model for other NHS organisations un­able to meet the qualification standards to become freestanding foundation trusts in their own right, said Stephen Dunn, director of strategy for the East of England strategic health authority.

The authority, which is already breaking new ground by seeking Treasury approval for private sector bids to take over and run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, has set a deadline for all its hospitals to apply to become foundation trusts by the end of the year.

However, Mr Dunn said, it had become clear that the Bedfordshire and Luton Mental Health Trust would struggle to do that, so foundation trusts were being asked to bid to take it over. Whether that would involve a payment from them to the SHA, or a subsidy from the authority to the winner, or simply the takeover of the trust’s existing contracts, would depend on the negotiations, he said.

It is understood that the contest is being limited to NHS organisations while the Treasury decides whether to give the go ahead to potential private sector involvement in Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

There has already been one takeover of a mental health service by a foundation trust in Staffordshire, but this is thought to be the first time a health authority has sought to run a competitive process to take over an NHS trust.


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