All hospitals have to convert to Foundation Trust status by 1 April 2014. To do so they must meet key standards in performance, governance and finance. It was explained that Epsom Hospital is unable to become a Foundation Trust on its own, because it is unable to meet the financial requirements. A contributory factor in this is budgetary constraints acting upon Primary Care Trusts in the area which use the services of Epsom Hospital. So the likelihood is that Epsom and St Helier will become part of separate Foundation Trusts, with Epsom linking with another partner body yet to be identified.
The procedure is akin to a tendering process and interested parties have to submit bids describing how they would expect a merger with Epsom to form a single Foundation Trust would work. One of the tests will be that there is no further reduction in services provided at Epsom. The more bids are submitted, the more beneficial the outcome is likely to be as there would be an element of competition amongst bidders. However it is not possible to guarantee that there will be more than one bid.
The panel were unwilling to divulge at this stage who has bid or who might be expected to bid – as the matter is subject to commercial confidentiality at present. However it is hoped to reach a decision as quickly as possible, to reduce the period of uncertainty for patients and staff.
Questions from the floor were generally supportive of the work being done but revealed anxiety about the availability of services at Epsom. The Panel attempted to reassure enquirers on this point. Further public meetings will be held as the project develops. Details can be obtained from the Trust website – www.epsom-sthelier.nhs.uk/foundationtrust.