STRUCTURE: Several smaller trusts that could not confirm the date on which they will apply for foundation status had previously been confident of achieving it.

George Eliot Hospital, which is aiming for a 10 per cent efficiency saving on its £108m turnover this financial year, had planned to apply in January 2009.

A spokeswoman said by July the trust will have “determined its clinical and financial capacity to become a foundation trust”, and added the board believed that to be the “best option”.

Weston Area Health Trust, which is looking at 6.6 per cent savings on its £90m turnover, had aimed to apply by December 2010.

It would not confirm a date for when it would apply ahead of its board meeting in June but said it “is not engaged in any conversations about merger”.

West Middlesex University Hospital, which has a £149m turnover and 8.6 per cent 2011/12 savings target, had previously been reported as ditching standalone options and had approached NHS London about writing off its historic debts.

HSJ now understands the trust is pursuing a twin-track approach, developing one plan for merger and another maintaining independent status.

The trust was one of the 22 with a PFI “obstacle” to becoming a foundation trust in the DH tender.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospital was due to today announce that it was ruling out splitting into two independent trusts that would then apply to Monitor for authorisation individually.

The most likely candidates for absorbing the Epsom site are thought to be Frimley Park Hospital Foundation Trust or Surrey and Sussex Healthcare, with St George’s Healthcare thought to be the only contender for merging with St Helier.