The largest community healthcare organisation in London - Central London Community Healthcare (CLCH) - has become the first in the capital to be awarded standalone National Health Service trust status.

CLCH was formed a year ago when three separate London primary care trusts - Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster - wove together their community service provider arms to provide patients with the best care at home and in the community.

The Department of Health has now awarded that alliance trust status in its own right, enabling future GP commissioners to directly choose CLCH - which houses over 1,700 healthcare professionals and offers over 60 community and in-patient services, including physiotherapy and palliative care – as a provider of care outside of the hospital setting.

A spokesperson for CLCH NHS Trust told PharmaTimes UK News that its new status will enable it to “improve the quality of services through continued innovation, ensure borough-wide equality of services, and greater accountability and transparency to the public”, as well as “compete in the healthcare market on a level playing field with other providers within the local health system with the same commercial flexibilities as other NHS trusts”.

The move will also place CLCH in better stead to partner with both NHS and private sector organisations in the design and delivery of “high quality, cost-effective services and pathways of care”, the spokesperson explained, and noting that “cross organisational solutions may help meet the economic and financial challenges of the future”.

In addition, achievement of trust status is the first step to becoming a community foundation trust in 2012, giving CLCH “membership from the local community and patients which will help shape and improve our services,” the spokesperson told PT.

Transforming services

Welcoming the decision, Ruth Carnall, Chief Executive of NHS London, stressed the health service “needs to work closely with local authorities and community services to give Londoners more consistent and coordinated care”, and “by coming together to transform its community services, CLCH will combine the expertise of its staff to provide better quality care for people, more of the time, in central London”.

According to CLCH, DH approval of its trust status marks the first major NHS reform to be delivered under the new government, and signals the importance of locally delivered treatment for patients. But there has long been a push for the delivery of more and better care in the community throughout the country, in a bid to move services away from hospital-based care to reduce the pressure on resources and costs.

Previous health secretary Andy Burnham estimated earlier this year that “by making NHS services truly people-centred and ensuring that patients have access to high quality, integrated and efficient community services, the NHS could save up to £2.7 billion a year – meaning a better service for patients, and a more productive service for taxpayers”.