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The future of Epsom Hospital

November 4, 2012 8:00 AM

The Health Service Journal is claiming that Epsom and St Helier Hospitals Trust is likely to be made subject to a "failure regime" similar to that imposed upon South London Healthcare, with a Trust Special Administrator preparing future options.

This follows last month's sudden collapse of the merger of Epsom hospital with Ashford and St Peter's.

Health Service Journal reporter Ben Clover says the failure of those plans means the Epsom and St Helier trust is now being seriously considered for the Department of Health's failure regime. A similar high-profile and controversial process was triggered for South London Healthcare in July.

The paper has learnt that senior NHS officials now believe this regime could be applied to Epsom and St Helier. A Special Administrator would be appointed, who would present his or her solutions for the trust direct to the Secretary of State, after a short consultation period.

At a meeting on October 25, NHS London suspended the merger process for Epsom and said "urgent discussions" were taking place about the trust's future. This decision is thought to be linked to the indefinite suspension of the controversial consultation on the future of health services in South West London, Better Services, Better Value, which recommended downgrading services at St Helier hospital.

Epsom and St Helier is predicting a £19m deficit in 2012-13 on a £329m turnover. Ashford and St Peter's chief executive Andrew Liles said last month that the Epsom proportion of the predicted deficit was £13.8m, which he said meant that if his trust merged with Epsom, it would be unable to break even within five years.

The Health Service Journal says it understands the Ashford and St Peter's Trust, which has a £227m annual turnover, had wanted to take on Epsom on a "no risk" basis, under which it could have been re-separated after five years if the merger was not a success, though it is not clear what body the hospital would have been handed back to in this event.

The proposals that Ashford and St Peter's Trust was developing for Epsom hospital included partnership arrangements with Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust, the Royal Marsden Foundation Trust and social enterprise Central Surrey Community Health, with Surrey and Sussex Healthcare possibly transferring some maternity and elective care to Epsom.