FINANCE: Expectation is growing that Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust may be one of the next acute trusts put up for takeover.

Non-foundation trusts, including Surrey and Sussex, are working with the Department of Health to determine whether they can reach foundation status as independent organisations before the 2014 deadline.

HSJ has seen an internal briefing given to Royal Surrey County Hospital Foundation Trust staff in April, which lists among “opportunities ahead” for the trust the possibility that Surrey and Sussex “may come up ‘for sale”.

A Royal Surrey spokeswoman told HSJ the information “came from the [South East Coast] strategic health authority”.

“There’s no secret plan to do anything, that’s something we were led to believe could happen, and that there would be a competitive [tender] process for it,” she said. “There’s a potential opportunity [for Royal Surrey] but at this stage no decision has been taken.”

Surrey and Sussex chief executive Michael Wilson said it was working with its commissioner, the SHA, and the DH on the trust’s “FT trajectory”.

“As part of this we are looking at the sustainability of the organisation going forward and are undertaking a strategic modelling exercise which will report in the summer.”

In the North West, Salford Royal Foundation Trust has dropped out of the running to take over Trafford Healthcare Trust. HSJ understands University Hospital of South Manchester Foundation Trust and Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust will still bid to take over Trafford by the 10 June deadline.

A Trafford statement said: “It is our strong preference to be acquired by a neighbouring foundation trust rather than another organisation. If, however, for some reason this does not prove possible we will move to an open process.”

It is understood George Eliot Hospital Trust in Warwickshire wants to push ahead with an independent FT bid.

The trust, which has a turnover of £108m and a cost improvement programme target of 10 per cent in 2011-12, said last month that by the end of June it would have “tested the achievability of the efficiency savings and activity reductions”. 

Meanwhile, two foundation trusts are in merger talks.

Poole Hospital Foundation Trust and Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals Foundation Trust confirmed they were “looking at how we can work more closely together”.

HSJ understands these discussions go further than increasing clinical integration.

Poole Hospital has a financial risk rating of two and a red governance rating from Monitor.

Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals has a green for governance and a financial risk rating of four.