STRUCTURE: A specialist trust has abandoned plans to become a foundation trust, blaming Monitor’s assessment process for discriminating against its more commercial model.

Oxfordshire Learning Disability Trust finance director Andrew Hall told HSJ the problem lay in Monitor’s assessment process. He said this judged the trust to be “more risky” than it actually was because the trust could not include any projected income from new contracts in its business plan.

The trust wins about 75 per cent of its business through competitive tender.

Mr Hall said the economic down turn had “completely ruled out” aspirant FTs putting forward business plans based on a growth in income.

He said that, while Monitor’s assessment made “perfect sense “in the acute sector, “it doesn’t fit an organisation like us, where we are not looking to do high level of overall growth but have a constant winning and losing of business in a commercial environment”.

The trust provides services in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire and Dorset, and takes patients from across South Central in its medium secure unit. It has an annual turnover of about £38m and finished the year with a surplus of £161,000.

The board has ruled out becoming a social enterprise due to concerns about the likely extra cost of taxation, pensions and having to rent back its premises from the NHS and is looking to merge with an existing or emerging FT.

Informal discussions have begun with a number of trusts about acquisition. But Mr Hall stressed the specialist is looking beyond its next door neighbours and has set no geographical barriers to its acquisition.