comment: Strong negotiating teams will help PCTs keep foundation trusts in check

Published: 06/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5904 Page 15

News that the Department of Health has considered financial backing for primary care trusts that commission work from foundation trusts is welcome (see news, page 6). However, it is unlikely that any help from the centre will adequately solve the core problems of time pressure and the greater managerial muscle that foundations trusts can use in contract negotiations.

As our regular column on primary care will reveal next week, there is a striking contrast between the rigour and openness of PCT negotiations with private treatment centres and those with local foundation trusts.

When turning their attention to commissioning, foundation trust chief executives still talk about 'my money' - and well they might, given the reality of the situation. In many cases, the use of the word 'negotiations' is a misnomer when the smaller partners are not given the support, information or time to play an effective role.

The answer for PCTs negotiating with foundation trusts is to work together. Just as foundations are developing expertise in how to get the best out of the new commissioning arrangements, so are many PCTs.

Sharing this knowledge and forming strong negotiating teams drawn from a number of PCTs is the best way to guard against foundations becoming too big for their boots.