Prospective foundation trusts are facing delays to their authorisation of up to six months, Monitor has admitted.

HSJ has learned that wave seven foundation trust applicants - which are currently consulting their local communities and hoping for authorisation in April 2008 - could face a six-month delay.

The foundation trust regulator conceded the slippage could jeopardise the government's target for all trusts to apply for foundation trust status by the end of 2008.

Susan Sorenson, director of strategy and performance at Whittington Hospital trust - a wave seven applicant - said she was 'aware of a backlog' and understood it was because of deferrals and delays to earlier applicants.

A spokesman for Hillingdon Hospital trust confirmed it had also been warned that its authorisation was likely to be delayed.

Monitor blamed the hold-up on the low quality of some of the bids it was receiving, which created a backlog.

The regulator has the capacity to assess up to five foundation trust applicants a month.

A spokesman told HSJ: 'To make best use of this capacity, we require a steady flow of high-quality applicants. To date, the historic success rate of applicants at first attempt is just 65 per cent - this is because some trusts are not fully prepared for assessment when they reach Monitor, which wastes the assessment capacity and leads to delays for future applicants.'

Applications that are not up to standard are rejected or deferred. Deferrals have up to a year to improve their business case to achieve authorisation.

However, from next year, Monitor will restrict this to six months from a trust's first deferral 'to deter overly ambitious applicants'.

The regulator's 2007-08 business plan pledged to focus on tightening up its assessment process for applicants (see 'Monitor takes tougher line to prepare for wave of FT plans').

Foundation Trust Network director Sue Slipman said some trusts were being pushed forward by their strategic health authority and then by the Department of Health before they were ready.

'Trusts need to be brought through when they have the best chance of authorisation; our experience is that some strategic health authorities are not handling the process well and that it is not their biggest priority.'

Monitor this week authorised three new wave 3a foundation trusts. Hertfordshire Partnership foundation trust; Leeds Partnerships foundation trust; and Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber Mental Health foundation trust were authorised from 1 August. However, the regulator has deferred the authorisation of Royal Liverpool Children's trust and rejected the foundation trust bid from St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals trust.

  • Monitor, the Foundation Trust Network and the Primary Care Trust Network have agreed to establish an independent dispute resolution panel to resolve contractual and financial disagreements between PCTs and foundation trusts. The Centre for Dispute Resolution will establish panels tasked with independently arbitrating between foundation trusts and PCTs.

Uncertain status: wave seven trusts facing delays

  • Bedford Hospital trust
  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Partnerships trust
  • Essex Rivers Healthcare trust
  • Hillingdon Hospital trust
  • North East London Mental Health trust
  • Plymouth Hospitals trust
  • Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital trust
  • Suffolk Mental Health Partnership trust
  • Whittington Hospital trust