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South London Healthcare NHS Trust

Volume 552: debated on Monday 29 October 2012

I wish to inform the House that the trust special administrator appointed to South London Healthcare NHS Trust in July by my predecessor is publishing a draft report today making recommendations to me in relation to securing a sustainable future for services provided by that organisation.

Details about the appointment of the administrator, Matthew Kershaw, were given in a written ministerial statement issued on 12 July 2012, Official Report, columns 47- 48WS.

In accordance with chapter 5A of the National Health Service Act 2006, as introduced by the Health Act 2009, the trust special administrator has provided me with a copy of the draft report, which has today also been laid before Parliament. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. The report will also be available at: www.tsa.nhs.uk.

I will consider the detail of the draft report but do not anticipate commenting on its recommendations at this stage. It is for the trust special administrator to now consult locally on his draft recommendations. That consultation will run from 2 November to 13 December. Significantly, it will give the public, patients, NHS staff and NHS commissioners, as well as all other key stakeholders, the opportunity to have their say about the future of services currently provided by South London Healthcare NHS Trust and the wider south-east London health economy.

Following consultation, the trust special administrator must make final recommendations to me as to the action I should take in relation to the trust in a final report by 7 January 2013. I expect those recommendations to consider the views of all persons and organisations taking part in the consultation. It will be for me, as Secretary of State, to make a final decision about whether or not to accept the administrator’s recommendations by 1 February 2013, after having also considered the responses to the administrator’s consultation. I will publish my final decision and the reasons for it, and lay a notice of such, in Parliament.

A key objective of the Government is to ensure that all NHS organisations deliver high-quality services to patients that are clinically and financially sustainable for the long term. The provisions in chapter 5A of the National Health Service Act 2006, referred to as the regime for unsustainable NHS providers, give the Government a mechanism to address fundamental, systemic issues that have rendered an NHS trust such as South London Healthcare NHS Trust unsustainable.

Past efforts did not succeed in putting South London Healthcare NHS Trust on a sustainable path. Using the regime is about protecting services for patients in the context of an organisation that is no longer sustainable and to ensure that a prolonged, challenging situation can be resolved speedily to give certainty to NHS staff. Despite some recent improvements in clinical performance, there are significant concerns about sustaining them because of the trust’s very considerable financial challenges. As the House has previously been informed, in 2011-12, South London Healthcare NHS Trust incurred the largest financial deficit of any of the 248 NHS provider organisations in England, at over £65 million. The trust is losing well over £1 million of taxpayers’ money a week, which means that vital resources are being diverted from other parts of the NHS. I am clear that patients and NHS staff of the trust must be given the benefit of services, in future, that can be delivered on a sustainable footing.

In making my final decision, next year, on the future of South London Healthcare NHS Trust and the services it provides, my objective will be to ensure that services are delivered more efficiently and to a high standard for the people of south-east London. Patients and taxpayers deserve this.

I fully understand that use of the regime may be unsettling for NHS staff and local residents. However, no decisions have been made at this stage and everyone affected should rest assured that the Government are seeking to bring about further improvements in quality of care as well as dealing with the financial challenges of South London Healthcare NHS Trust through a stable and sustainable solution that will benefit everyone.