Like many trusts around the country, those in the South East Coast are busy considering ways of getting themselves to the holy grail of foundation status.

However, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust has found itself the object of covetous looks from the neighbouring Royal Surrey County Hospital Foundation Trust. Royal Surrey board papers identify the non-FT in a list of “opportunities” for the trust, noting that Surrey and Sussex may come up “for sale”.

Surrey and Sussex is one of six non-FTs in the NHS South East Coast region. There are also six foundations – meaning the SHA mirrors the national picture of a roughly 50:50 split been FTs and non-FTs. But looking through the microscope reveals this pattern is not always maintained down to local level.

While Kent is representative of the overall pattern, with two FTs and two non-FTs, Surrey has three FTs and shares its one non-FT with Sussex – the aforementioned Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust.

In fact, there are four non-FTs in Sussex and the county currently only has one acute FT, the Queen Victoria Hospital Foundation Trust.

Western Sussex Hospitals Trust, however, is on the cusp of applying to the DH for foundation status. It finished last year with a £5.2m surplus, and is sorting through 500 responses to a consultation over plans to reconfigure its ophthalmology and orthopaedic services. It has also moved swiftly to appoint an interim chair, following the resignation of Hywel Evans in April. Mike Viggers has joined on a temporary basis.

Looking east, East Sussex Hospitals Trust also has an interim chair but ended 2010-11 with a deficit of £4.7m – it has some way to go before it can call in the sign writers.