HEALTH Secretary Lansley announced yesterday that he is putting South London Healthcare NHS Trust into administration.
The trust was created by merging three hospitals – the Princess Royal in Orpington, Queen Mary’s in Sidcup and the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich – and serves more than one million people.
Lansley said long-standing difficulties had been made worse by Labour’s merger in April 2009 and by two PFI deals that are now costing £61m a year in interest.
He has appointed national director for provider delivery at the Department of Health (DoH) Matthew Kershaw as special administrator to go into the trust.
From 16 July, Kershaw will ‘assume full control of South London Healthcare NHS Trust, replacing the functions of the trust board and assuming the role of the accountable officer’, Lansley said.
Kershaw will publish a draft report on October 29, launch a 30-day consultation with staff, patients and the public, and then submit a final report to Lansley on January 8th, 2013.
To reduce debts, the trust cut costs by £47m in 2010-11, but still posted a £40m deficit.
A DoH spokesman said the trust has been put on the ‘unsustainable providers regime’ and the administrator has been tasked with putting it on a viable footing.
At least twenty more trusts are said likely to be classed ‘unsustainable providers’.
The GMB union yesterday appealed to Lansley and the administrator ‘to ensure the interests of patients and staff are put first’.
The union warned: ‘The administrator will enter a 45 day consultation as to the best way forward for the Trust, which may include the closure, privatisation or merger of services.’
The GMB added: ‘The Trust has never had the opportunity to succeed as a result of crippling levels of PFI debt owed to companies such as Semperion.’
Rob Macey, GMB Senior Organiser, said: ‘It cannot be right that we are prepared to bail out the banks but not our NHS.’
Unison called for government action to ‘clear the unmanageable PFI debt at the South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLH) to put the Trust back on the road to recovery, instead of plunging local people and health workers into the uncertainty of an outside administration taking control’.
Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: ‘If the government is happy to bail out the banks, why can’t it clear the massive PFI debt that is dragging the trust into financial difficulties.
‘The future looks grim for healthcare and jobs but these services are too vital to be allowed to fail.
‘But the government is still signing off PFI projects.
‘This discredited model of funding major public building projects must be dropped.’
North East London Council of Action secretary Bill Rogers warned: ‘The imminent threat to close down the A&E departments and hand all the hospitals in the area to the private sector, along with mass sackings of nurses and other staff, can only be answered by establishing a Council of Action.
‘This must organise occupations to save these hospitals.
‘The unions must back any occupation with strike action to bring down the government.’