Aspirant community foundation trusts plan to lobby for changes to the NHS finance system to prevent activity being driven into acute hospitals.

This is part of an ambitious strategy to secure their future beyond the FT pipeline.

The work to develop proposals for new ways of paying for community services is one strand of a programme that has been developed by the recently formed aspirant community foundation trusts network.

Seventeen aspirant trusts have joined the network, which aims to lobby for changes to help secure the sector and to give it a greater voice.

There have been suggestions community trusts will struggle to achieve FT status, due to the short-term nature of their contracts creating uncertainty over long-term revenue.

However, speaking for the network Rob Webster, chief executive of Leeds Community Healthcare Trust, told HSJ community services trusts were not seeking “special treatment” in their bids for FT status. “Getting out of the pipeline as a foundation trust is just the start,” he said.

He said: “We have met with the [NHS Trust Development Authority] and Monitor and they were very clear we would be treated on exactly the same basis as everybody else and that’s what we want.”

Mr Webster added: “Once transforming community services as a programme was completed we thought there was a need for a bit more of a voice. Since TCS there has not been that voice nationally.

“It’s not just about helping our own organisations but also about helping the wider NHS to transform.”

One area where the group hopes to have an impact is by developing proposals for changes to NHS payments systems, to ensure activity is not driven into acute hospitals.

Mr Webster told HSJ while payment by results for acute services had helped to solve the waiting times crisis, it did not address the increasing amount of complex and long-term conditions which need to be managed in community settings.

“If hospitals are going to survive and do well they are going to need strong integrated services around them,” he said.

The network also seeks to build a case for transparency about how commissioners are reinvesting their savings from the marginal rate for increases in emergency admissions.

Other work includes identifying ways of measuring the social value of their services and building this into contracts, and developing better quality indicators to measure performance in community services.