Introduced in 2003 by the Labour Government, NHS foundation trusts are providers of NHS services that have a greater degree of freedom to adapt services to the needs of patients and their local communities.
There are currently 137 NHS foundation trusts, including acute trusts, mental health, community and ambulance trusts. They are authorised and regulated by Monitor, an independent regulator.
Created to devolve decision-making from central government, foundation trusts have more managerial and financial autonomy. They are set up as public benefit corporations with a legal duty to provide NHS services to NHS patients. They are membership organisations with local people, patients and staff able to join, having more say in how the hospital is run and how NHS services are provided.
They are represented by the Foundation Trust Network, part of the NHS Confederation.
Under its plans to reform the health service, the government wants to allow all hospitals to apply for foundation trust status and plans to remove the cap on the proportion of their income foundation trusts can receive from non-NHS or private work.