STRUCTURE: A south coast trust tied to a £256m private finance initiative is being put under pressure to agree a timetable for achieving foundation status, despite being forced to drop an earlier bid.

Portsmouth Hospitals Trust was forced to withdraw its original application for foundation status in 2009. Monitor expressed concerns about the trust’s financial position as a result of its 31 year PFI deal to finance the building of the Queen Alexandra Hospital.

The trust has to pay £44m a year to The Hospital Company, a partnership between Carillion and the Royal Bank of Scotland – equivalent to around 10 per cent of its turnover.

In February board papers, trust chair David Rhind said “strong pressure” was being put on the trust by NHS South Central and the Department of Health over the issue of foundation status.

He said: “There had been a meeting recently between ourselves, the Department of Health, our commissioners and the strategic health authority where strong pressure had been placed on this trust, together with its partners, to agree a position which would enable a successful FT application.”

In spite of this, trust chief executive Ursula Ward told HSJ she was confident it would achieve foundation status before the government’s 2014 deadline. She said: “We will be looking to an authorisation date of either the end of 2012 or sometime in 2013.”

She said she accepted the organisation had financial challenges, but said the situation had improved since the first application.

“One of the reasons we didn’t get through the last time was Monitor had concerns around PFIs and we were not able to give them enough assurance around the cost improvement programmes we put in place. This year we will have delivered a break even position and £31m of savings.”