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South London Trust ‘not sustainable’


30 October 2012

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Struggling South London Healthcare NHS Trust needs to reduce its capacity and close departments if it is to clear its debts in two years.

District auditor Philip Johnstone has ruled that “hard and unpopular decisions” need to be taken about the Trust’s “infrastructure and operational capacity” to achieve financial balance.

The debt-ridden Trust – which provides acute care to the London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich – was placed into administration in July 2012.

Struggling South London Healthcare NHS Trust needs to reduce its capacity and close departments if it is to clear its debts in two years.

District auditor Philip Johnstone has ruled that “hard and unpopular decisions” need to be taken about the Trust’s “infrastructure and operational capacity” to achieve financial balance.

The debt-ridden Trust – which provides acute care to the London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich – was placed into administration in July 2012.

In his report, Johnstone said: “The financial problems faced by the Trust are characteristic of an organisation that commenced operation from a weak position.’

Johnstone also predicted the Trust will miss the Department of Health’s extension of 2013/14 to “break even” as it has “exhausted” all options to identify potential savings large enough to close the gap – except addressing its operational capacity and reduce its estate.

“It is clear that the Trust cannot address its problems in isolation,” said Johnstone.

“Actions by one body in the local health economy can significantly affect others and the Trust will need to work with local partners to achieve a sustainable improvement in its financial position.”

Anna Dixon, director of policy at think tank The King’s Fund, said while Jonstone’s recommendations “will undoubtedly be controversial and tough to implement, radical redesign of health services is needed”.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive and general secretary Dr Peter Carter, noted caution at any changes to services being made on principles of cost and not care.

“The RCN accepts that the current situation at NHS South London Trust cannot continue,” he said.

“With mounting costs and an increasingly large deficit something has to be done.

"However we want to see any decision reflect the views of patients, staff and the public and we want to see one that will provide a high level of care. We caution any decision being made until all possible avenues are explored.”
 

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