Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Foundation Trust is bidding to be one of 10 trusts to receive grant funding to investigate the potential scope for becoming a mutual, HSJ has learned.

The FT runs a district hospital in the constituency of care minister Norman Lamb, one of two ministers spearheading the initiative.

A trust spokeswoman confirmed to HSJ it had submitted an application. She said: “We have seized the opportunity to be involved in the thinking behind how mutualisation might be applied to an organisation such as the [trust] to benefit patients.”

Ten trusts will be awarded £100,000 each under the Mutuals in Health: Pathfinder Programme, which was launched by Mr Lamb and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude in July.

The funding is to be used by successful trusts to procure “expert support” to help them explore options and ways to deal with potential barriers, according to application documents sent out to trusts.

It is not publicly known how many trusts have applied for the funding, but University Hospitals of Leicester Trust - one of the country’s largest - told HSJ in July it would apply for the programme because a mutual model could be an alternative to becoming an FT.

A letter sent to trusts in July said: “The mutual model, with its focus on improving the engagement and empowerment of staff, is set to play a central role [in overcoming] the challenges facing the health service.”

The Cabinet Office said the government’s definition of a mutual organisation included charities, social enterprises, community interest companies, partnerships, and joint ventures.

The programme is part of the government’s response to an NHS staff engagement review, led by the King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham.