South London Healthcare NHS Trust 'should be broken up'

Lewisham's mayor has urged the government to reject the "dangerous proposals"

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A hospital trust which ran up debts of £150m should be dissolved, a report has concluded.

South London Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs three London hospitals, was placed in administration when it started losing about £1.3m a week.

A special administrator said the trust should be broken up, with other organisations taking over the management and delivery of services.

Lewisham's mayor urged the government to reject the "dangerous proposals".

Matthew Kershaw, who filed his report on Monday, was appointed Trust Special Administrator in July and a public consultation was carried out throughout December.

If implemented fully, Mr Kershaw said his recommendations, would result in a radical overhaul of services in south London, and help deliver "safe, high-quality, affordable and sustainable services... into the future.

"I have said consistently that the status quo is not an option, and I believe these final, refined recommendations are the right ones, although I appreciate that some people will find them difficult to accept."

In November thousands of people marched in protest at the plans which would involve the closure of maternity and A&E services at Lewisham hospital.

Campaigners are angry that services at Lewisham, which is not part of the SLHT and is financially sound, are being targeted in order to make savings at a neighbouring trust.

Radical overhaul

Urging people to join a protest march in Lewisham on 26 January the Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: "These were seriously flawed proposals in draft and they remain seriously flawed and dangerous proposals.

"I feared all along that this process was set up to rush through ill-conceived proposals with no intention of listening to the views of local people, the people who use local health services and the people who work in our local health services."

Start Quote

Where trusts face long-standing problems we have been clear that doing nothing is not an option”

End Quote Department of Health

In an emergency question in the Commons, Lewisham MP Joan Ruddock said the report must not be used to justify closing essential hospital services.

She claimed the document was being used to force through a "major reconfiguration of services via the back door".

But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he understood the concerns of people who would be affected by the proposals and would consider the report carefully.

Under the plans the Queen Elizabeth Hospital site in Woolwich would come together with Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust to create a new organisation providing care for the communities of Greenwich and Lewisham.

The Princess Royal University Hospital in Farnborough, near Bromley, would be acquired by King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

'Biggest financial problem'

In conclusion, the report stated: "In order to deliver this transformation programme, South London Healthcare NHS Trust should be dissolved and other organisations should take over the management and delivery of the NHS services it currently provides."

It said South London Healthcare Trust remained the "biggest financial problem" across the NHS and its hospitals would need to make £74.9m of efficiency savings over the next three years.

Mr Kershaw recommended the Department of Health write off any debts to ensure new organisations were not "saddled with the issues of the past".

A DoH spokesman said: "Where trusts face long-standing problems we have been clear that doing nothing is not an option.

"It is crucial that patients in south-east London have high-quality health services that will last."

Mr Hunt has 20 working days to review the report and make a decision on the future of the NHS in south-east London by 1 February.

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