STRUCTURE: Only one organisation has submitted a bid to take over England’s smallest acute hospital, it has been announced.

Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust was among three NHS organisations to express an initial interest in running Weston Area Health Trust in June.

However, University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust and Somerset Partnership Foundation Trust have both decided not to tender to run the £100m turnover hospital in Weston-super-Mare.

Taunton’s bid will now be scrutinised to judge whether it meets the trust’s criteria for a partner. A decision is due by the end of the year and if approved will go forward to the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor for approval.

Chief executive Nick Wood said: “The tender submission from Taunton will now go through a strict and intensive evaluation process. This closely scrutinises the business case against the clinical, financial and service delivery objectives set by Weston and the NHS Trust Development Authority. A decision will then be made about whether the case meets the essential criteria needed to progress further along the acquisition process.

“We feel it is important to stress at this point that the outcome of whether Taunton will acquire Weston is still very much unknown and will not be known for some time.

“We will of course ensure that staff, patients and the public are kept informed of progress and decisions as they happen.”

Weston was designated as a financially challenged trust in 2007-08 and has received about £37 million in additional funding over the last five years. The trust board estimates it would need a £95 million subsidy over the next ten years. Weston. 

The trust board announced it was not viable in its current form in 2011. Following a failed attempt to create an integrated care organisation with other providers in north Somerset the trust announced plans to seek an NHS partner or an independent sector franchise arrangement.

However, this was abandoned in June due to concern a franchise arrangement would not address longstanding issues with consultant recruitment. Instead the trust sought bids from NHS trusts within a 50-mile radius.