Bosses rule out immediate merger for debt-hit NHS trust

Rotherham General Hospital
Rotherham General Hospital
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BOSSES at a troubled Yorkshire NHS trust have announced they plan to retain its independence – but have left open the option of a long-term merger.

The Rotherham Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was plunged into crisis earlier this year after regulator Monitor intervened when it emerged it was facing serious financial problems amid further concerns over its running by senior managers and a failing multi-million-pound IT contract.

An American-led team of turnaround experts was controversially drafted in to lead the organisation and draw up a strategic vision for its future.

Its board yesterday announced that at a meeting behind closed doors it had decided to remain a standalone trust but warned it will need to deliver “significant quality and cost improvements”.

The trust has failed to make public full details of the strategic review but within days it will lodge its plans with Monitor for approval. A permanent chief executive and chairman will be appointed next year following the departure of staff from private turnaround consultants Bolt Partners.

The Yorkshire Post has already revealed how its team are expected to cost taxpayers around £1.5 million for their services during 2013.

The trust has also forked out £500,000 on exit payments in a clear-out of senior executives.

It is forecasting a deficit of more than £3m in 2013-14 and is likely to continue to face scrutiny from Monitor over its finances and its running.

Interim chairman Christopher Langley said it would continue as a “standalone entity whilst clearly recognising that we have to become more efficient in the current environment”.

“This will require us to continue to deliver significant quality and cost improvements each year,” he said.

He said the trust’s board discounted another option which would have seen services integrated with social services and GPs. A third option of a merger was not being pursued but had not been ruled out in the long term and it would work to “develop effective collaboration arrangements with other providers as appropriate”.

He added: “The financial challenges we face are significant, but with continued commitment, ambition and focus on quality, the board will strive to deliver our plan for the benefit of our patients.”

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, who has campaigned for the trust to remain independent, said: “I’m pleased the hospital board have listened to our public campaign and rejected the NHS regulator’s pressure for a hospital merger and I strongly welcome their aim to keep Rotherham hospital independent.”

He said the area’s three MPs would meet Monitor in the New Year to support the case for continued independence.

“I fear Government Ministers have a hidden agenda to see the NHS run by fewer bigger hospitals, so I will also argue that Monitor must allow Rotherham to take a hospital merger completely off the table,” he added.

“It would mean NHS decisions and services taken out of Rotherham, and the 2,500-name petition we delivered this month to Downing Street shows there’s strong public support for keeping our hospital in Rotherham for Rotherham patients.

“I’m also delighted that when the recovery plan goes in, the external US-led management consultants that Monitor forced on the hospital will be gone for good.

“There are big questions about how much they cost, what they’ve done for the money and whether they’ve really helped or hindered the hospital get back on an even keel.”

Chris Edwards, chief officer of the GP-led NHS Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group, said he was pleased the trust would continue in its existing form.

“Our key priority is to continue to provide high quality, safe, hospital and community services as close to Rotherham patients as possible,” he said.