Hospitals win cash bail out

St Helens Hospital at Peasley Cross
St Helens Hospital at Peasley Cross

CASH-STRAPPED Whiston and St Helens Hospitals are in line to receive a Government bail out.

The St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust, which runs both hospitals, is set to get a share of £1.5bn of government funding to help struggling trusts – as long as it meets four key criteria.

To qualify for the funding boost, the trust’s needs must be “exceptional”, they must be able to show that they have a clear plan for the future and that they can deliver annual productivity savings and clinically viable, high-quality services.

A spokeswoman for the St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust welcomed the news.

She said: “Following today’s announcement, we are pleased to learn the Government will make money available to support the additional costs of the rebuilding of the trust’s new hospital facilities.”

The local NHS Trust was one of just seven pinpointed by the Department of Health for “additional support” last week.

Any of these trusts that satisfy the rigorous tests will have access to a share of up to £1.5bn of financial support – over the next 25 years.

Some of this funding will be available from 2012/13 within the Department of Health’s budget.

The rebuilding of both Whiston and St Helens Hospitals – at a combined cost of £338m – together with swingeing funding cuts left the trust struggling to keep up with sky-high Private Finance Initiative (PFI) repayments.

Last year a leaked document suggested that privatisation was an option – prompting more than 33,000 people to sign a petition.

A delegation from the Save Whiston and St Helens Hospitals (SWASH) group subsequently presented the document to Downing Street last September.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said it was important that patients and taxpayers could see that additional funding was only provided when organisations would otherwise not be financially sustainable.

He said: “A small number of NHS Trusts with PFI arrangements have historic problems relating to these arrangements that make it very difficult for them to manage financially.

“In the past, trusts have received extra funding on the quiet in order to avoid embarrassment.

“We have already signalled that we are determined to end these backroom deals by bringing greater transparency and openness to the process.

“We need to balance the accountability of the NHS at local level to live within its means on one hand, with recognising that there is a legacy of debt for some trusts with PFI schemes.

“And we need to be certain that those NHS Trusts that face historic financial problems are not taking their eye off the most important issue of all – maintaining and improving their frontline patient care.”