A DECISION on whether Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust will become one of the Government's flagship foundation trusts is due within weeks.

The trust, which runs the local hospitals in Huddersfield and Halifax, is among 25 across England which have applied in the first wave of applications for the new status.

It would see them given greater financial control and more freedom from Whitehall.

If successful in its bid, the trust will be able to become a foundation trust in April, at the start of the financial year.

Hospital chiefs are expected to be given a decision in mid to late January, the Department of Health said.

The controversial legislation creating foundation hospitals narrowly scraped through Parliament after a battle between the Commons and the Lords.

Peers rejected the clause on founda- tion trusts in the Health and Social Care Bill after it passed through the Commons by a margin of just 17 votes in the largest rebellion by backbench Labour MPs since Mr Blair took office.

But the Commons sent it back with an increased majority of 41 and the Lords later accepted that the MPs' views should prevail.

The plans have been opposed by doctors' leaders, unions and the Conservatives who feared it could lead to a two-tier health service.

Prime Minister Tony Blair also suffered defeat over his flagship policy at the Labour Party conference.

It is possible that all or none of the 25 trusts in the first wave of applications will get foundations status after an independent review of all the bids.

A further 32 three-star hospitals applied in a later round, but the Department of Health says these will be dealt with after the first wave.