Three-star trusts are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to spend the new money they have been allocated from the performance fund but few, if any, seem keen to seize the opportunity to run a franchise to turn around a failing trust.

Malcolm Poad, director of planning at Bradford Hospital trust, said he wanted to discuss with his colleagues how they might spend the extra£309,000 earmarked for them. 'We have a turnover of£140m a year, so it is not a huge amount, but it is not insignificant either, ' he said.

The trust already sells its occupational health service to the private sector and ploughs the income from it back into patient services.

'I am not quite sure what is different about this, ' said Mr Poad.

As for Bradford managers taking over a failing trust, he said he had his doubts. 'I think we would have to think long and hard about that.

There is a huge job in just managing your own organisation.'

Peterborough Hospitals trust chief executive Malcolm LoweLauri was also cautious about franchising: 'It is enough of a challenge to lead one's own organisation, without thinking about it at this stage, ' he said.

'We have a plan to create an equipment library, and that is to deal with all those irritating moments when there is a little piece of equipment you want, and you can borrow it.'

Mr Lowe-Lauri said he was looking forward to being influential in the development of government policy, an additional freedom granted to chief executives of three-star trusts.

Sue Jennings, chief executive of Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals trust, said: 'We are delighted most of all for the staff.

This accolade is for them.'

The trust will get a£448,000 bonus over the next two years. Its priority would be tackling the delays in accident and emergency, she said.

West Suffolk Hospitals trust chief executive Johanna Finn also ruled out franchising. 'I am personally not that tempted and there are the practicalities of managing remote sites, ' she said.