My monthly Board meeting this morning at Monitor, the regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts. Monitor makes sure Trusts are well-managed and financially strong so that they can deliver excellent healthcare for patients.NHS foundation trusts are a key part of the reform programme in the NHS. They are autonomous organisations, free from central Government control. They decide how to improve their services and can retain any surpluses they generate or borrow money to support these investments. They establish strong connections with their local communities; local people can become members and governors. These freedoms mean NHS foundation trusts can better shape their healthcare services around local needs and priorities. NHS foundation trusts remain providers of healthcare according to core NHS principles: free care, based on need and not ability to pay. A full agenda as usual, discussing the merits of various hospital and mental health trusts and deciding whether they can be authorised according to our stiff criteria. We did authorise some today and that makes 90 out of 220 NHS trusts now with Foundation trust status. We spent a fair bit of time today talking about how we could help the Trusts improve the quality of care they provide, that is improve patient care, clinical outcomes and satisfaction with services. This discussion couldn’t have come at a better time for me as I shall feed much of the discussion into the debate tomorrow raised by Baroness Eccles about the Quality of Care in the NHS.
As I write this I look round my office in Millbank with some despair. Over the last 4 years I’ve accumulated multiple files full of talks and speeches and notes, decorated the place with pictures, and generally made it comfortable. It’s become a very useful working retreat for writing speeches and meeting people. I share with my good friend Baroness Meacher although she uses it at different times to me. Now we are to be evicted in summer for the whole building to be refurbished and I haven’t got anywhere else to move to. No wonder Baroness D’Souza is worrying where to put everyone. I have been offered a temporary office in Tothill Street but it really is too far away to get back to the House for a vote. They say it’s in the Division Bell 7 minute area but I reckon they must have used Lord (Sebastian) Coe to sprint the distance when they measured. I spent an hour this week beginning the task of ruthless junking of anything deemed less that crucial. I now have to think about kitting out a better office at home in Norfolk and relying more on the computers around the Palace of Westminster. I’m already beginning to feel unsettlingly lacking in facilities to do the job properly.