• Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT estates director was also director of company spun out from the trust
  • Essentia carried out estates and facilities work for the provider
  • Trust removed dual role after scrutiny of “financial flows between the trust and Essentia”

A foundation trust has changed its structure to remove a “clear potential conflict of interest” for its estates director, who was also head of a wholly owned estates company that held contracts with the trust.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT in central London span out its estates and facilities arm as Essentia in 2013, with Steve McGuire appointed as director while retaining his role as lead for capital estates and facilities at the trust.

The company has since diversified into providing consultancy services.

A trust spokeswoman said Mr McGuire has now left the trust and it has restructured to remove the dual post.

An audit report commissioned by the trust’s board, mentioned at the last quarterly board meeting in January, included scrutiny of “financial flows between the trust and Essentia Trading Limited”.

The report has not been released but minutes of an audit committee meeting said: “There was no evidence that any conflicts had impacted the trust, although a number of other issues had arisen and there was in the case of one individual a clear potential conflict for interest.”

The report said a “Teckal exemption”, where a public body can award work directly to an entity it directly controls, “no longer applied”.

It said in future “any services should be properly procured competitively” and “any dual activities of staff should be stopped”.

The company was founded with equity and loans from the trust that are interest bearing.

For the financial year ending in March 2016, Essentia had a turnover of £5.2m, up from £1.7m the year before. Its most recent annual accounts did not have a figure for turnover but showed 48 employees.

The company is controlled by a trust owned subsidiary called Guy’s and St Thomas’ Enterprises Limited, which also controls the trust’s interests in a pathology partnership and in GTI Forces Healthcare, which arranges the provision of healthcare services to the British army in Germany.

A trust spokeswoman said Mr McGuire received no remuneration from his Essentia work on top of his £160,000 salary as a director at the trust.

She said: “It had always been the intention to resolve this issue. The post holder has now left the trust and Essentia for reasons unrelated to the review, and we have since taken the opportunity to restructure in a way that removes the dual post. The arrangements concerning when he left the trust are confidential and cannot be disclosed.

“There was no actual conflict of interest declared by Mr McGuire either as a director of Essentia or as an executive director of the trust; the wording [of the trust report] recognises that there was the potential for one to arise.

“The interests of Essentia and the trust were and remain strategically aligned. The arrangements for the establishment of Essentia, including staffing, were agreed and approved by the finance and investment committee on behalf of the trust board in February 2013.”

The audit committee also noted issues with the military work and said an audit has been commissioned “because of concerns about procurement being undertaken outside the normal agreements”.

The minutes said the audit “highlighted a number of issues across a spectrum of concerns” and “it was clear that the long life of the contract had led to the development of a culture within the overseas staff group which had now been changed and developed”.

In 2016, SSAFA GSTT Care Limited Liability Partnership, a company jointly owned by a military charity and GTI Forces Healthcare, turned over £28m, down from £43m the year before.