NHS Trust 'should be dissolved'
An NHS trust which went into administration as it was on the brink of bankruptcy should be dissolved, with the possibility that one of its hospitals will be run by a private company, its administrator has said.
In addition, the accident and emergency (A&E) department at a hospital nearby will be closed as part of the plans for South London NHS Trust - which was losing more than £1 million a week - and for the wider area.
Special administrator Matthew Kershaw said University Hospital Lewisham's A&E department, not part of the South London Trust, will be downgraded to an "urgent care" unit and Princess Royal University Hospital in Farnborough, near Bromley, should be taken over by another provider.
Outlining his draft recommendations, Mr Kershaw said it would be preferable for the Princess Royal to be run by King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, but that an alternative option would be to run a procurement process allowing private companies or other NHS providers to bid to run services at the site.
Mr Kershaw said it was possible the elective care centre at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup could also be run by a private company after being put out to a procurement process: "In the way that the systems within the NHS, the rules around competition work, it's important that we offer alternatives where we've offered them and we've done that based upon that process. It is true that it could be the NHS, it could be the independent sector, or it could be a combination of both."
The trust, which runs three hospitals in the capital, was the first ever to be put on an "unsustainable providers regime" because it was losing around £1.3 million a week. Former health secretary Andrew Lansley put the trust in the regime after it emerged that it ran up deficits of more than £150 million over the past three years.
Sources close to Mr Lansley said long-standing difficulties had been made worse by Labour's merger of the three hospitals' smaller trusts in April 2009 and by two PFI deals which are now costing £61 million a year in interest.
Mr Kershaw said PFI debts accounted for "around a third" of the trust's £65 million overspend in the last financial year. And the Department of Health (DH) should now provide £20 million to £25 million annually to cover the excess costs of PFI buildings at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich and the Princess Royal University Hospital until the relevant contracts end, Mr Kershaw recommended.
Chief executive of the NHS Confederation Mike Farrar said: "This is a well-thought-through and credible plan that deserves a fair hearing. I urge the public, politicians and staff from all the trusts affected to get fully and constructively involved in the consultation and help shape the services of the future."
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted the situation was "unsettling for NHS staff and local residents", but said he would await the final report for administrators, due on January 7, before making a decision.