Headlines: September 18th, 2008

A report in today’s Health Service Journal says the Department of Health expects to get rid of up to six hospital trusts a year under its new failure regime. The Journal says the figures are contained in the Department’s impact assessment and could mean 92 trusts being culled across the 20-year life of its model.

The article says the assessment document estimates savings of 200 million pounds a year under the proposals, which are currently the subject of a consultation process. The assessment looks at six trusts, designated as ‘financially challenged’, and comes up with a model for savings based on reconfiguring services and sacking failing trust boards. They would then be merged with or run by successful trusts.

Health Service Journal says there is no assumption in the impact assessment that the cull would stop at those six trusts. In fact, the document estimates that 2.1 per cent of NHS and Foundation trusts will fail each year. The article quotes John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund, who says the Department of Health is anticipating a massive redistribution of health service resources. “They will get to a point where they create huge consolidation and monopoly,” he says.

Meanwhile Kate Grimes, who is chief executive of Queen Mary’s Sidcup Trust, which is in deficit and regarded as ‘financially challenged’ says the failure regime will be a good thing as it will mean more speedy action is taken when there are difficulties.

Finally the Journal quotes a Department of Health spokesman who believes a robust, transparent scheme will be an incentive for improvements so that the failure regime will be used in fewer than the estimated 2.1 per cent of trusts.