Labour Research May 2004


Foundation hospital votes meet with apathy

A dismal turnout has greeted the elections for the new management boards of the first 10 "foundation hospitals".

Only 1% of potential electors even bothered to register to vote for control of the trusts which recently gained foundation status, according to figures released recently by Bill Moyles, the independent regulator of the NHS Foundation Trusts.

And a survey by The Guardian newspaper last month suggested only 20,000 voted out of a possible two million NHS users. Just four of the trusts managed a total voter turnout of 50% or more of those who had gone to the trouble to register. The highest was at London's Royal Marsden trust (67.2%).

The lowest turnouts were recorded at Doncaster and Bassetlaw, where only a third voted, and at Peterborough and Stamford, where slightly over one-fifth (21%) bothered to exercise their vote.

Phil Green, national officer for the UNISON public services union, said: "We warned that, far from involving the community in health-care provision, foundation hospitals would create a democracy deficit, and there would be the serious danger that trusts could be infiltrated by unrepresentative interest groups."

And former Labour health secretary Frank Dobson, who led the backbench revolt against the Foundation Bill, said: "In most places the total number of votes for all candidates would have meant a lost deposit at a parliamentary election."