Private Business Intermediaries

Bankrupt NHS? Trusts May be Dissolved

02/11/2012 | By Sharmila Chauhan
A new report  shows that a significant ‘minority’ of NHS trusts could go bankrupt. As many as one in five NHS trusts are currently experiencing  financial difficulties and thirty-four trusts – have a combined debt of £356m (2011-12) and another 42 have relied on hand outs from local health authorities or the Department of Health (DOH).

One of these – the South London NHS trust is believed to be more than £1 million a week over budget (a total £65m last year) and has been in the hands of  ‘special administrator’ Matthew Kershaw since July this year.

So what are the implications for NHS trusts?

Other trusts ‘at risk’ include: Barking Havering and Redbridge, Peterborough and Stamford and Mid-Staffordshire. Mr Kershaw's has some radical proposals for the trust which include combining the QEH with the neighbouring Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust. This will result in the loss of one A&E department and will reduce the number of emergency departments in the area for five to four. It is also possible that some of the hospital’s services will be put out to tender to the private sector.

The trust, which serves over a million people and employ over 6,000 staff, is one of the largest NHS Trusts in the country, includes three hospitals: the Princess Royal in Bromley, the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich and Queen Mary's in Sidcup.

Their website states that: South London Healthcare:
  • has lower than average mortality rates across its sites;
  • is making improvements to the patient experience, with projects looking at patient food, getting real-time feedback from patients, and working closely with patient groups;
  • is improving its waiting times, with 95% of patients seen and treated within 18 weeks; and
  • continues to improve rates of hospital acquired infections: the trust has had no cases of MRSA bloodstream infections this year and patients are three times less likely to pick up a hospital acquired infection than the national average.
However, an inherited debt, together with some bad decisions around the structure of the trust mean that it may longer ‘viable’.

Interviewing residents of the local area, many of them were unaware of the changes that would likely affect them. Mr Sinclair a pensioner from Lewisham said that he was “worried about how far this might go. We already have enough trouble getting into the casualty department as it is.”

Lisa, a mother of two spoke about the terrible service she has received from one the hospitals, including waiting months for a referral to a specialist and hours at the local A&E department. Despite this, she felt that the change, “could only improve things for the better.”

Whether privatising the trust will lead to better patient outcomes remains to be seen. What is clear however, is that if the government, intent on maintaining a strict business model for the NHS continues, we may soon see other trusts being dissolved. This may lead to further fractured services for patients.

A public consultation will now be carried out for the next 30 days. It is believed that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, will publicise any decisions early next year. Full details on the consultation can be found on the Office of the TSA web site.