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South London Healthcare Trust

Volume 556: debated on Tuesday 8 January 2013

I wish to inform the House that the trust special administrator appointed to South London Healthcare NHS Trust provided me with his final report on 7 January 2013. It makes 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.

The report was provided to me in accordance with chapter 5A of the National Health Service Act 2006, as introduced by the Health Act 2009, and has today been laid before Parliament and made publicly available at:

Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

I would like to thank Matthew Kershaw for the work he has carried out in producing his report. This is the first time the trust special administrator’s regime has been used since the last Government introduced the provisions which were enacted in the Health Act 2009. In accordance with the legislation, in addition to producing his recommendations on the future of the trust, Mr Kershaw has also been responsible for managing South London Healthcare NHS Trust and maintaining services for patients while the board is suspended pending the outcome of the regime. I do not underestimate the demands this has placed on him.

In triggering this regime, the Government’s priority was to ensure that patients continue to receive high-quality, sustainable NHS services. At the time Mr Kershaw was appointed last July, South London Healthcare NHS Trust was overspending by £1 million a week. In the last financial year, the trust had a deficit at over £65 million, the largest in the country. Left to itself, the trust’s very severe financial position would have continued in a downward spiral of continuing deficits and ultimately threaten the quality of care for patients across south-east London.

The challenges facing South London Healthcare NHS Trust are complex and long standing. To date, it has not proved possible to ensure that South London Healthcare NHS Trust is able to secure a sustainable future for its services within its existing configuration and organisational form. The Government’s priority is to ensure the delivery of a long-term, viable solution for services provided by the trust if it cannot be made sustainable. All responses to my predecessor’s statutory consultation on whether to trigger the regime, including from South London Healthcare NHS Trust itself, stated that a solution for the trust cannot be viewed in isolation from broader service provision within south-east London.

In accordance with my statutory duty, I will consider the trust special administrator’s recommendations carefully and make a final decision by 1 February that can secure sustainable services for the people of south-east London. In considering the recommendations, I will examine particularly:

whether the recommendations are likely to provide a sustainable long-term financial position which will secure high-quality services in the local area for the future; and

whether the recommendations have regard to the Government’s four key tests for local service reconfiguration. These are support from GP commissioners, strengthened public and patient engagement, clarity on the clinical evidence base and support for patient choice.

Ultimately, my priority is to ensure that all NHS hospitals live within their budgets and achieve the best quality care, best patient outcomes and best patient experience for all their NHS patients.

I will inform the House of my decision as soon as reasonably possible afterwards.