• Sherwood Forest Hospitals Foundation Trust looking to be acquired or merged-with
  • Derby and Nottingham hospital trusts are in the running, and Sheffield Hospitals FT has dropped out
  • Decision on partner expected next month

A troubled foundation trust is looking for a merger or acquisition partner after concluding it no longer has a future as an independent organisation, HSJ can reveal. 

Sherwood Forest Hospitals Foundation Trust, in mid Nottinghamshire, is now working with regulators to find an organisation to take it on, well-placed sources said.

The trusts considering this move are Nottingham University Hospitals Trust and Derby Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, HSJ understands. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust was approached but has decided it is not interested.

It is unclear whether other NHS providers, or independent providers, may be eligible to take over the running of its services.

A decision by Sherwood Forest and Monitor on the future of the FT is expected next month.

Sherwood Forest is one of England’s most troubled foundation trusts and is predicting a deficit of £44.5m for 2015-16. It has been in special measures since 2013 and is rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission.

In October the Care Quality Commission and Monitor announced the FT would require a “close tie-up with a long-term partner” in order to improve.

Nottingham has been working with Sherwood Forest to provide ‘light touch’ assistance to improve clinical and non-clinical performance. The two-site trust has a turnover of £284m.

Those with knowledge of the situation believe patient flows in the east Midlands mean Nottingham could be a better fit as a partner, but that it has more financial and operational problems.

Monitor carried out a sustainability review of Derby in October but the results are not known.

Derby recorded a deficit of £21m in 2014-15 and is predicting a £33.7m deficit for 2015-16. Nottingham, the fourth largest acute provider in England, last year reported a 2014-15 income of £874.1m, and has forecast a year end deficit of £49.2m.

Nottingham has a far larger teaching income than Derby, being paid £49.2m for this work in 2014-15, compared to the smaller trust’s £26.5m

Nottingham University Hospitals chief executive Peter Homa said: “Since October 2015, we have been providing some tactical support to Sherwood Forest Hospitals Foundation Trust in the areas the Care Quality Commission identified improvements were required and where we have extensive expertise…

”We are carefully examining a longer-term partnership arrangement with Sherwood Forest, without any commitment at this stage. We enter this exercise with the single objective of doing what is best for patients in Nottinghamshire and securing a sustainable health and social care system for the local community in the future.

”We of course remain very mindful that any support provided to Sherwood Forest in the short to medium term must be balanced exquisitely with our requirement to retain a clear focus on delivering our own ambitious agenda at NUH, not least addressing our significant financial challenges and sustaining our strong performance (and in some cases improving) across the full range of patient safety, experience and access standards.”

Derby FT interim chief executive Helen Scott-South said: ”Over the past five years Derby has established many partnerships with other hospitals across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and East Staffordshire. We have already been providing support to Sherwood Forest Hospitals and are keen to extend this to benefit staff and patients in the longer term…

”We believe that working closely with Sherwood Forest we can bring the best of both organisations together by sharing best practice, as well as clinical and operational expertise, in order to provide the best patient care for our local communities.”

In a statement interim Sherwood Forest chief executive Peter Herring said: ”[The trust] is in discussion with a number of organisations to find a long-term partner.. We believe a partnership with another NHS organisation will give us the best chance of achieving our goal to deliver consistently high quality financially sustainable services for local people.

”Part of our agreement with each of the potential long-term partners we are in discussions with is that the initial engagement will be done under commercial confidentiality rules. We are however seeking agreement to name potential partners. At this point we will also provide an update on how discussions are progressing with the long-term partnership and next steps.”