5 Jul 2012

Struggling NHS trusts get £1bn injection

Struggling NHS trusts have received more than £1bn in bailout funds in the past six years, figures from the National Audit Office show.

Andrew Lansley

Following the news that South London Healthcare NHS Trust is likely to become the first NHS trust to be placed in the hands of a special administrator, the figures show the extent of the financial problems facing parts of the NHS.

Between 2006 and 2012 the Department of Health gave emergency funds to four NHS foundation trusts and 17 NHS trusts, the NAO said.

South London Healthcare was formed by the merger of three smaller trusts in 2009. Since 2006 the trust and its parts have needed £365m.

Another London trust, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, was given £195m in the six year period.The figures also show that the amount being given to trusts rose dramatically in the last year.

It is clear that parts of the service are under strain. Amyas Morse, National Audit Office

For the 2010/2011 financial year struggling trusts were given emergency funds totalling £76m. The following year that figure rose to £253m.

Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “It is shocking that over the past year alone the amount the Department for Health has had to spend on bailing out trusts in financial difficulty rose by 333 per cent.

“Two trusts in particular received significant support; South London Healthcare NHS Trust (£79m) and Barking and Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (£55m).

“My concern is for the members of the public who rely on the vital healthcare services in these areas.”

PFI debts

South London Healthcare and Barking, Havering and Redbridge are two trusts which have struggled financially due to the interest payments they pay on private finance initiative debt.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: “So far the NHS is meeting the challenge of maintaining strong finances in a period of austerity. It is clear, however, that parts of the service are under strain.

“For value for money to be delivered in future, two things are required: firstly, careful management of the risks created by transition to a new commissioning model; and, secondly, a coherent and transparent financial support mechanism which outlines when trusts should be supported, or allowed to fail.”