FINANCE: Recently merged London North West Healthcare Trust finished the last financial year £55.9m in the red – £8m higher than its planned deficit for the year.

The trust was formed in September through a merger of Ealing Hospital Trust and North West London Hospitals Trust. Both trusts were already planning large deficits for 2014-15, of £13.6m for Ealing and £21.5m for North West London.

The NHS Trust Development Authority agreed with the trust to increase the combined deficit by a further £12.8m – to £47.9m – to cover the costs of the merger.

However, the trust said operational pressures over winter had helped push the full-year deficit £8m above its target.

London North West finance director Simon Crawford said: “This winter the whole of the NHS experienced significant pressures, including an increase in those patients requiring 1:1 care.

“Ensuring that the trust was appropriately staffed and able to care for our patients during this very busy period was a major factor in the £8million overspend.”

Last September, clinical commissioning groups for Brent, Ealing and Harrow wrote to the TDA raising concerns that the business case for merger would not deliver an organisation financially stable enough to achieve foundation trust status.

HSJ asked the commissioners if they still had concerns about the trust’s financial stability. Rob Larkman, accountable officer for Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon CCGs, said: “Whilst the CCGs expressed concerns about the service and financial challenges the merged trust would face, they gave their full support to the proposed merger.”

In response to the letter TDA programme director Anne Gibbs said the trust would be given “bespoke support” to address financial challenges.

A TDA spokesman said: “Prior to the merger both trusts faced significant challenges with no clear plan for addressing them in the long term. The merger has put the new trust and its services on a more secure footing for the future, but some benefits will take time to be realised.

“A new chief executive has recently started and will provide leadership stability to enable the trust’s committed and hardworking NHS staff to continue to provide better care for patients.”