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Private firms invited to run South London Healthcare Trust services
PRIVATE health firms have been asked if they would like to take over South London Healthcare Trust's services, it has been revealed.
The trust, which runs Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, Sidcup's Queen Mary's and the Pru in Farnborough, was put into administration in July after racking up massive debts.
Now administrator Matthew Kershaw has written to health providers including private, voluntary and NHS organisations to see if they are interested in running the trust's services.
He said in a letter to staff: "For any provider to be considered, they would have to meet a very high level of quality of care and financial value for money standards.
"This is not a signal that we have decided on future service models or who is best to provide them - rather it is a way of us assessing interest from providers in addition to SLHT itself who may be part of the future organisation of care locally.
"One of the options that will be considered is the re-establishment of the SLHT board but there are a range of others too including other NHS providers and the independent sector.
"If an option which included independent providers were to be adopted, it is important to remember that this already happens in the NHS and the crucial principle is that they are working for the NHS and its patients, who would continue to get free treatment according to need."
Belvedere councillor Cllr Gill MacDonald today criticised Mr Kershaw's invitation to the private sector, saying: "Local residents are already apprehensive about the future of health provision locally.
"This invitation to the private sector will only add to their fears. I'm very concerned that this, when coupled with the top down reorganisation of the NHS, is a further step toward privatisation."
A spokesman for Mr Kersaw's office said: "The Trust special administrator will make recommendations for changes to the way services are delivered, how, where and by whom. It is possible that there will be recommendations for organisational change as part of this.
"Whilst one solution will be to re-establish the South London Healthcare NHS Trust board, other organisational options must be considered.
"To support this, it is essential that the Trust Special Administrator is aware of potential interest from NHS, independent and third sector parties in providing or managing NHS services in south east London to help develop and deliver a sustainable solution for the people of south east London."
"This is not a signal that decisions have been taken about the future of services or organisational solutions rather it is an exercise to assess what interest there may be if new organisational forms are required."
The Unison union's head of health for the London region Chris Remington said: "We know the administrators have a legal duty to seek expressions of interest, but it would be a sad day for patients and staff if South London Healthcare Trust fell into private hands.
"Ironically it is in administration because it is drowning in a sea of Private Finance Initiative debt fuelled by the high cost of servicing repayments to private companies.
"The best option for local people is for the trust to stay together and be run by the NHS. The Government should step into to help trusts weighed down by the enormous PFI incurred trying to deliver new hospitals with up-to-date facilities for patients.
"If they can find the money to bail out the banks, money should be found to save this hospital falling into private hands. We know that private companies will be looking to make profits out of the hospital and that is bad news for patients and staff."