The Department of Health and Treasury have approved a process that could lead to a second district general hospital trust being franchised to a private company.
Board papers published by the NHS Trust Development Authority (NTDA) reveal George Eliot Hospital in Warwickshire could now pursue a path that might see a merger with another trust or a franchise - like the one that saw Circle Health take over Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust in February last year.
The report said it would be “prudent” to expect service commencement with a new strategic partner to begin in April 2015.
The document said “the specific business management model of a potential partner was more important than its organisational form in securing sustainability”.
“There is no preferred organisational model and an open procurement should take place in order to test a wide range of innovative proposals from both NHS and independent sector providers,” it added.
The trust indicated in December that it wanted to seek a partner “in the best interests of the hospital, its patients and staff” and that options included being taken over or being run as a franchise, along the lines of Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust’s arrangement with Circle Health.
Among the organisations who have indicated an interest in running George Eliot are Circle Health, Serco, Care UK, South Warwickshire Foundation Trust, the Dudley Group Foundation Trust and Burton Hospitals Foundation Trust.
An NTDA spokesman said: “The most important thing for the patients of George Eliot and the people of Warwickshire is to secure its long term sustainability. It has a history of quality and financial issues, needing more than £100,000 a week of external support to break even over the last two years.
“Money should be spent on patient care not on servicing debt. George Eliot would undoubtedly need on-going support in future years if it continues in its current state. The scale of savings required in the future means this is unlikely to be achieved in its current form.
“That is why the NTDA is helping the trust to find an alternative provider within the NHS or, if necessary, the independent sector to ensure high quality, sustainable care.”
Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.