The Department of Health must clarify how failing NHS trusts can be successfully merged with foundation trusts, Monitor's chief operating officer has warned.

Speaking to delegates at the NHS Confederation's annual conference, Stephen Hay said many of the 17 most indebted and failing organisations named by the DoH earlier this year had historic deficits too large to allow them to merge with a foundation trust..

'There is no way that we would allow a good foundation trust to acquire an intrinsically failing organisation because it would just destroy the good foundation trust,' he said..

Asked if failing trusts should put themselves up for acquisition as soon as possible to pre-empt a takeover in the medium-term, Mr Hay said that there was 'no right or wrong'..

'Every organisation is going to be different, some will be similar to Good Hope [recently acquired by Heart of England foundation trust] but it depends on individual circumstances,' he said..

Speaking at the same event, Foundation Trust Network.director Sue Slipman echoed Mr Hay's comments..'The DoH needs to focus much more on what will make it feasible for foundation trusts to take on failing organisations and make the funding available to do this,' she said.