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South London Healthcare NHS Trust put in special measures by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley
SOUTH London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLHT) is to be put in special measures as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley seeks to turn around its dire finances.
The trust, which has been losing £1m a week, will be the first in the country to be put under the control of a special administrator tasked with putting it on a viable footing.
The trust, which runs the Princess Royal University Hospital, Queen Mary's Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, has been criticised over standards of care and has run up deficits of more than £150 million over the past three years.
Despite efforts to improve its financial performance, it is still thought to be on track to lose between £30 and £75 million a year for the next five years.
Its chief executive was informed tonight (June 25) that the trust is likely to be put into the "unsustainable providers regime" which was introduced by the last Labour government but never before used.
Mr Lansley sent a letter as the first step in the legal process towards installing a special administrator using the powers.
The administrator will take over the board and recommend measures to the Health Secretary to put the trust's finances on a sustainable basis.
SLHT released a statement this evening reassuring patients that services would continue as normal.
Sources close to Mr Lansley said long-standing difficulties had been made worse by Labour's merger of the three hospitals' smaller trusts in April 2009 and by two PFI deals that are now costing £61 million a year in interest.
They said the hospital's deficit last year - covered by money from elsewhere in the NHS budget - was equivalent to the salaries of 1,200 nurses or 200 hip replacements a week.
In his letter Mr Lansley wrote: "I have sought to provide NHS organisations with the help and support they need to provide these high quality, sustainable services to their patients, which South London Healthcare NHS Trust stands to benefit from.
"However, even after this support has been provided, your organisation still expects to be in need of significant financial resources from other parts of the NHS and I cannot permit this to continue.
"That is why I am considering using these powers."
The trust pointed out that it had one of the lowest mortality rates in England and infection rates three times lower than the national average.
In a statement, it said: "We have entered into discussions with the Department of Health and NHS London on the best future for the Trust and our priority, and that of others involved, is to make sure that our long-standing and well-known financial issues are resolved.
"Our staff have worked hard for patients and in spite of significant financial issues, we are extremely proud that we now have among the lowest mortality and infection rates in the country.
"We expect these discussions to come to a conclusion in the second week in July when a decision will be taken by the Secretary of State.
"In the meantime we can reassure local patients and the public that our staff will continue to provide services as normal."