New guidance on conversion to independent status for NHS charities

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Welcome guidance on conversion to independent status for NHS charitable funds was published by the Association of NHS Charities on 18 November 2014.

The guidance sets out key pointers to what trustees of NHS charities should consider when deciding whether conversion to independence from NHS regulation is right for them. It also provides a clear pathway to follow if they feel that it is.

The guidance follows the Department of Health's paper "Review of the regulation and governance of NHS Charities" 2012. It provides an opportunity to re-evaluate the benefits and disadvantages of continuing under the current regime of dual regulation by the Department of Health and the Charity Commission, and/or changing and improving governance and purposes.

The Review and Government response is timely, given the current financial pressure on NHS bodies and charitable funds being looked to more urgently for projects which were previously funded out of main trust revenue or resources. Historically, many NHS charities have filled in “nice to have” gaps in patient service, but they may now have a bigger role in funding core service or care provision. Independence between the charitable funds and Trusts and Foundations may make this much easier. It may also offer opportunities for greater innovation and flexibility in fundraising, and create the demonstrable independence from NHS Trusts and Foundations that the public and regulators increasingly expect.

Blake Morgan offers the combined expertise of a leading team of charity lawyers and a long track record of advising NHS England and a range of NHS trusts throughout England and Wales. As a nationally recognised charity law firm, we have helped other charities face these strategic issues and provide an independent perspective on the choices and challenges trustees face.

The guidance recommends that an NHS charity that is considering conversion to independence should seek professional legal advice. We are keen to help and are well placed to advise.

We recognise that factors may be complex and decision may be difficult to make. We are, therefore, offering all NHS charitable funds a strategic review and options appraisal. We will set that advice in the context of our wider strategic and governance experience with NHS Trusts and Foundations.