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Two West health trusts face 'serious difficulties'

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: June 27, 2012

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Two West health trusts are facing ‘serious financial difficulties’ as the fall-out from London hospitals that have ‘gone bust’ hit the region.

But the Great Western Ambulance Service and Weston Area Health Trust hit back last night at being named by Government sources as being in danger of following the South London Healthcare Trust into administration.

The London trust runs three hospitals in south London, two of which were built by expensive PFI deals, and administrators have been called in after ministers effectively declared it bankrupt.

Yesterday, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley repeated his view that the NHS would not keep bailing out the debtS of troubled NHS trusts and warned that at least 20 others were in financial difficulties.

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The GWAS trust, which covers Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and what was Avon, and Weston Area trust, which runs Weston General Hospital, were named on that list – something GWAS chairman Peter Carr said was unfair.

The ambulance service was named in a report by the National Audit Office last October as being one of a number of NHS trusts that would be too small, or ‘unsustainable’ to evolve into foundation trusts in their own right.

That reinforced a move two months earlier for GWAS to seek to merge with the South West Ambulance Service, which covers the rest of the West Country, which should be completed by January.

A GWAS source said while the list of 20 ‘trusts in serious financial difficulties’ might include hospitals with a huge level of PFI debt, it wasn’t in financial trouble.

The finance chief at the West’s biggest PFI hospital – the Great Western Hospital in Swindon – also sought to reassure patients it could handle the debt burden of the hospital build, unlike the PFI deals on the two London hospitals.

“Like every trust in the NHS the financial environment is very challenging, all trusts are having to do more with less,” said Maria Moore, GWH’s director of finance.

Weston Area Health Trust also strongly denied it was in ‘serious’ financial trouble, but bosses yesterday admitted it may have to merge with other bodies to survive the reforms.

Late last year, the trust admitted it was £834,000 behind on its plans to make the £6million a year savings demanded by the Government, with managers warning failure to deliver the savings could put the financial plans in jeopardy.

The trust now hopes to balance its books by the end of this year.

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