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NHS Herefordshire and Herefordshire Council are set to appoint a specialist trust to provide mental health, learning disability and substance misuse services to people in Herefordshire.

Following a competitive tendering process, that started in July 2009 and attracted interest from organisations across England, the ²gether NHS Foundation Trust (²gether) is awarded preferred bidder status. The trust is the main provider of mental and social healthcare in neighbouring Gloucestershire and will begin providing services in Herefordshire from 1 April 2011.

“We want to ensure that local people receive a modern, accessible, world-class service which is designed around their needs and their families now and in the future”, said Chris Bull, chief executive of Herefordshire Council and NHS Herefordshire. “We are confident that people will receive the best possible care that we can commission and will have an increased choice and voice in how services are planned and delivered”.

Shaun Clee, ²gether’s chief executive, added: “We are delighted and very much look forward to working with our colleagues in Herefordshire and we are committed to providing local services. Our plans build on the already strong services that exist across Herefordshire and include additional approaches and technologies to help enhance patient care and treatment. Our aim is to deliver the same high quality care and standards that we would expect for a member of our own family.”

The move, which supports a national commitment to separate how health services are commissioned and provided, is subject to contract negotiations and the approval of the NHS Co-operation and Competition Panel.

The trust was one of the first mental health trusts to received foundation trust status in 2007 and is at the cutting edge of the government’s commitment to the decentralisation of public services and the creation of a patient-led NHS that is more responsive to the needs and wishes of local people. Soon after the new service becomes operation, ²gether will invite the people of Herefordshire to join the foundation trust as members to help shape services and ensure local involvement and accountability.