Imperial College Healthcare Trust is expected to begin the formal process of applying for foundation status in the spring.

The trust, the largest in England and the UK’s first academic health science centre, is hoping to gain Department of Health approval to go to Monitor for authorisation to start the assessment process, latest board papers from NHS London show.

Southampton University Hospitals Trust has deferred its foundation trust application again after failing to reduce “overperformance”

NHS London has approved Imperial’s governance standards and performance, and will review the trust’s finances in the next two months.

However, Southampton University Hospitals Trust has deferred its foundation trust application again after failing to reduce “overperformance”.

The trust has asked Monitor to defer its bid - which was in the final stages of assessment - and said it does not expect to go ahead for at least another year. Board minutes show its surplus forecast reduced from £13.9m to £11.2m in September and then to £9.1m in December.

Trust chief executive Mark Hackett said: “Despite this setback, we remain in a healthy financial balance.”

A trust spokeswoman said: “We withdrew from our original application in 2004 because a significantly worse financial position had emerged. A new application began in 2007, and this suffered delays based on a number of factors, including an occasion when we did not hit DH targets for MRSA reduction.”

Southampton was one of seven acute trusts which are at the final stages of assessment only one of which - South Warwickshire General Hospitals Trust - is likely to go ahead before the general election.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust has had its application postponed since last May when the Care Quality Commission told Monitor it had concerns about the trust’s risk rating.

Trust chief executive Tony Halsall said he hoped the application would progress as soon as the risk rating was reassessed.

Hillingdon Hospitals Trust’s bid has also been deferred, although it plans to submit a business plan in April.

Three other acutes - Airedale, West Suffolk Hospital and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals - are still at the Monitor assessment stage, as are three mental health trusts - 5 Boroughs Partnership Trust, Kent and Medway Social Care Partnership Trust and Cornwall Partnership Trust.

HSJ’s conference on Information for Effective Governance is in London on 24 March. For details visit www.hsj-infogovernance.com