The Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, has written to the Chairs of NHS trusts seeking their personal assurances about their trusts’ progress towards achieving foundation trust status.

The letter, Progressing to NHS Foundation Trust (FT) status, from the Secretary of State reminds Chairs of the need to achieve FT status as soon as possible (we think this will need to be done before Monitor becomes the full economic regulator). The key paragraph of the letter to Chairs reads, "In consultation with your Chief Executive and Board, therefore, I would ask that you reply to me by 30 November 2010 to let me know what timetable you and your Board now intend to pursue, with your personal view of achievability, with the milestones you adopt and what progress you will have expected to make within, respectively, twelve months and two years." The letter continues, "If there are specific requirements in order to sustain your timetable, now is the time to identify them, as this will be a response in relation to which you should expect to be held accountable."  

At the same time, the Managing Director for Provider Development, Ian Dalton, has written to the chief executives of all NHS trusts and is no less forthright. The letter instructs chief executives to work with their SHA’s Regional Director for provider development in developing their plans and seeking the SHA chief executive's agreement to the timetable they intend to pursue, "against which you will be held to account at national and regional level". Dalton's letter also indicates that further assistance will be available to facilitate the acceleration of the programme. The purpose of the letter is clearly to encourage those trusts that can go early to do so (easing the pressure on the pipeline, on the Department of Health and on Monitor) and to flush out potential obstacles which might cast doubt on existing plans or suggest a need for additional help from head office.