Published: 20/03/2003, Volume II3, No. 5847 Page 7

Private hospitals and charities will be able to apply to become foundation trusts under the Health and Social Care bill published last week.

The bill, which sets out the legislative framework to create foundation trusts as 'public benefit corporations', has already provoked anger on the Labour backbenches, with former health secretary Frank Dobson leading the attack on the government's plans.

Though invitations to become foundation trusts have so far only been extended to three-star NHS hospitals, ministers have said they want to see the scheme rolled out across all trusts in the next five years. But the inclusion of a clause allowing applications from 'persons other than an NHS trust' is likely to stoke the controversy.

A senior DoH source told HSJ:

'That would enable some of the existing private hospitals that saw some benefits in going down this route to become foundation hospitals. There are a number that have a not-for-profit, charitable orientation. They might be interested in this.'

But he added: 'As far as I know, no-one's gagging for it at the moment, but you can never tell.'