Hospitals could face merger

St Helens Hospital
St Helens Hospital

FEARS are growing St Helens and Whiston hospitals could be merged with Warrington in a bid to save them from crippling debts.

St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust, which runs the local hospital, were among seven trusts named as needing Government help to meet their private finance initiative (PFI) repayments.

The trusts are facing major problems because of PFI deals they have entered into.

The Daily Telegraph said senior government lawyers and auditors are to be sent into those seven trusts which are struggling with such contracts.

It quoted Health Minister Simon Burns as saying he would be sending in “hit squads” to make savings at hospitals where the contracts had gone “horribly wrong”.

The newspaper said the trusts involved were Barking, Havering and Redbridge; Dartford and Gravesham; Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells; North Cumbria; Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals; and St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust.

Experts would also be sent into South London Healthcare which has already been taken over by a specialist management team, it added.

Among the options on the table are merging with neighbouring trusts in a bid to cut costs.

Mr Burns said: “There are these seven which are at the top of the scale, which are having a significant drag on their day-to-day running because of the PFI costs.

“The trusts have got significant problems as a result of these irresponsible PFI schemes that the last Labour government allowed, and we have said, with those, that if they have a regime in place that ensures that the other financial running of the trust, with regard to the provision of healthcare, is either sound or there are realistic measures to ensure they become sound, then we will be prepared to financially help them, solely with the burden of the PFI repayments, because it is a millstone round their neck.”