A HOSPITAL chief has spoken of his regret after a council elected to speak for patients had to be disbanded after less than two years.

However, Harry Turner, chairman of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said leaders had no choice but to dissolve the shadow council of gover-nors at the end of last year.

He also insisted patients would still have a voice thanks to a new Sounding Board, which would use the expertise of former shadow governors.

The trust, which manages Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester and the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, spent £37,000 on election and membership recruitment costs, but had to disband the shadow council because the trust had not become a foundation trust (FT) within the time limit.

The watchdog’s 15 elected public governors, who were elected by the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust’s 5,000-plus membership, were only ever shadow governors because the acute trust had not yet secured FT status.

FTs, regulated by an organisation called Monitor, are NHS trusts which have more freedom from central Government and greater powers to forge alliances with the private sector.

Mr Turner said: “The previous board’s decision to apply for FT status was taken several years ago and, once approval had been given to proceed, recruiting shadow governors and FT membership was one of the statutory requirements of the application process that all aspiring foundation trusts must fulfil.

“It is regrettable, therefore, that following a decision by Monitor, we must restart the application process, the same statutory requirements meant we were unable to keep our governors in their current shadow form.

“However, we had begun to build strong relationships and wanted to retain the skills and commitment that they brought to the organisation.

“It was for this reason that we invited all shadow governors to become part of a new Sounding Board, which we will continue to engage with on trust matters.

“We are delighted that the majority have accepted and we are looking forward to working with them over the coming months and very much hope that they will consider re-standing for governor roles when the election process comes round.

“We now have a new board in place with a determined focus on providing safe, quality care as efficiently as possible.

“It is the commitment to these aims which will stand us in good stead to successfully reach FT status”.

Monitor deferred the trust’s FT application in May 2010 over concerns about trust finances and has refused to extend the period of deferment. The decision means the shadow council of governors can no longer exist as a legal entity.