Debt Could Threaten NHS Trusts Merger

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Councillors have expressed concerns that a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal could threaten a merger between two major NHS trusts.

The proposed merger between Sherwood Forest Hospitals (SFH) NHS Foundation Trust and Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust has been delayed until next year due to legal work, NUH’s poor A&E performance and financial arrangements.

The SFH Trust has a £2.5bn debt from a PFI deal to build King’s Mill Hospital, refurbish Newark Hospital and run some services until 2043.

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Additionally, NUH recorded a year-end deficit of £47.2m in 2015 to 2016.

NUH chief executive Peter Homa and SFH interim head Peter Herring gave a joint presentation to councillors on the latest developments on the merger on Tuesday October 11th.

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MP Chris Leslie told the BBC in February the government should write off the merged trust’s deficit, and Mr Homa said the additional costs associated with SFH’s PFI “will be subject to national support”.

Mr Homa reiterated the PFI debt will not be taken on by NUH.

SFH was rated “inadequate” last year by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

It is currently awaiting the publication of a report by health inspectors.

Mr Herring said the CQC recognised SFH’s progress during their unannounced inspection in July. He added he was hoping to get a draft CQC report today.

Mr Homa said progress has been made in terms of consistent leadership – after Mr Herring became SFH’s seventh boss in four years in 2015.

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Mr Homa said he is also looking at how the Medilink bus service can be extended.

But councillor Colleen Harwood, chair of health scrutiny within Nottinghamshire County Council, is worried the reported progress will be undone if the merger cannot go ahead.

“The morale of staff [at King’s Mill] has improved, they feel confident they can look after you whereas before, they seemed to be rushing from one person to the next,” she said.

“Obviously there’s concerns with the PFI, they need to ensure it can be sustainable. It [the merger] all depends on the PFI and what can be done about it.”

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