The foundation trust regulator Monitor has announced a review into the long-term sustainability of services at the troubled Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, which could see the scandal-hit trust placed into special administration.
A contingency planning team has been drafted in by the foundation trust regulator to carry out a deep-level assessment of the trust’s finances, which could see the organisation restructured.
The trust, which has been at the centre of a public inquiry into care standards by Robert Francis QC, is facing a dire financial outlook after finishing 2011-12 £16.5m in the red.
In 2010-11 it finished with a deficit of £10.5m. It predicts a deficit of nearly £15m in March 2013.
This is despite repeated and continued financial bailouts from the Department of Health and the Staffordshire health economy.
Monitor says its team of experts will be tasked with drawing up a long-term viable solution for services.
Mid Staffordshire is aiming to save £41m over four years but this will still result in an underlying £14m recurrent deficit.
The contingency planning team will work closely with commissioners and clinicians, building on work already undertaken through the Midlands and East strategic health authority cluster to look into options for the provision of healthcare services in Staffordshire.
The experts will deliver a final report to Monitor in spring 2013.
David Bennett, chair and interim chief executive of Monitor, said: “We have been working closely with Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust to improve its performance.
“It has made significant improvements in the clinical care provided for patients, but we need to make sure these services can be secured in the long-term.
“It is therefore time for us as the sector regulator to step in and look for a solution that ensures services are provided for local patients on a sustainable basis. We have an open mind about the form that solution might take, but it should be the best one for patients in the long-term.”
Mid Staffordshire chief executive Lyn Hill-Tout said: “We are hopeful that the outcome of this review by Monitor will be that decisions are made about which services are to be provided at Stafford and Cannock Chase hospitals.
“Reviews of the trust over the last few years and the changes to the way healthcare has begun to be provided nationally have led to a growing feeling of uncertainty about the future of the two hospitals.”
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “Problems took hold at the hospital because the trust took its eye off the ball and staff concerns were ignored. The focus shifted away from patients and was instead set on gaining foundation trust status.
“There are many lessons that have to be learnt from this tragic case, and thankfully many have been taken on board. The lesson that patients and quality of care have to come first – not money – must be one that is never forgotten.”
She added: “We also need to be mindful of the fact that the Mid Staffs report has not been published – we need to incorporate any recommendations from this report into the long term plan for the hospital.”