More London hospitals may 'face financial problem'

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Media captionThe government says its reforms will give doctors the freedom they need to make decisions about care

More hospitals in future could face "financial trouble", NHS London chief executive Dame Ruth Carnall has warned.

Dame Ruth, who leaves on Friday after six years in her job, said intervention as was seen in the case of South London Healthcare NHS Trust may be needed.

The trust went into administration in 2012 - £150m in debt. The government's reforms also delayed healthcare improvements in London, she claimed.

The Department of Health said the changes would lead to better care.

In January Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the A&E department at Lewisham Hospital would be downgraded and the maternity unit replaced with a midwife-led facility to tackle debts at South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLHT).

SLHT was created in 2009 and went into administration last July. It was the first time an NHS trust had been put into administration.

Mr Hunt will also rule on the fate of A&E units in north-west London.

Improvements 'held up'

Dame Ruth said: "I think sadly some (hospitals) will go; bust is perhaps the wrong word because intervention would need to be in place before something actually went bust in the traditional sense.

Image caption Dame Ruth Carnall was the chief executive of NHS London for six years

"I don't think that would be allowed to happen. But I think the sort of intervention that you have seen in south-east London I think will happen again sadly in some other places."

From 1 April the 31 Primary Care Trusts will be replaced by GP-led new bodies called Clinical Commissioning Groups. NHS London will also be scrapped.

The new organisations will have the power to decide on local services and where the money is spent. London councils will also take on a new role with responsibility for public health.

Dame Ruth said: "The change programme that we have been implementing which is about the structures of the NHS in London... have held up the changes that we have wanted to see in health services."

Scrapping NHS London will be a mistake, said the outgoing chief, adding: "The thing that I think will be lost is the overview and the strategic view... like the stroke programme in London. The risk is the fragmentation."

The Department of Health said it was "not true" that the changes have delayed healthcare improvements because "the NHS continues to deliver low waiting times, and the best ever record on hospital infections".

It also refuted claims that losing NHS London will "fragment" healthcare, saying NHS England will be "responsible for commissioning larger pieces of healthcare across local areas".

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