NHS Direct has launched a bid to become a foundation trust, potentially opening the doors to a new breed of national foundations.

A public consultation published this week makes the case for the organisation - which has been an NHS trust since April this year - to become the first national NHS organisation with foundation status.

Within minutes of putting up its prospectus on the NHS Direct website it already had its first member signing up online.

Chief executive Matt Tee told HSJ: 'We are doing this partly because it is the right thing for all trusts to do.' But he added that he was also interested in engaging with stakeholders and developing business opportunities.

'It will give us an ability to be a bit more dynamic and make decisions more quickly,' he said.

He identified outward-bound calling as a key area for growth.

'Most of our services are provided to people who call us when they have an information need. But we think there are significant health benefits to be made by nurses calling patients.'

The consultation is open until the end of March. NHS Direct will then take its business case to the secretary of state for approval to go to Monitor, the foundation trust regulator, where the application would be considered in detail.

NHS Direct receives£150m a year to run national telephone services, a website and a digital TV channel. It also runs services for partners through its 37 centres, such as out-of-hours work for GPs, checking hearing aids and telephone support for people with long-term conditions. It makes 200,000 appointments a month on choose and book.

So far only acute and mental health trusts have gained foundation trust status. A spokesman for Monitor said new assessment tools would be needed to look at the application from NHS Direct.

'There is potential to expand foundation trusts to cover other types of health organisation,' he said.