STRUCTURE: The first organisation to receive authorisation to become a foundation trust in four months was announced on Friday.

The £82m-turnover Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Shropshire received the go-ahead from Monitor.

Monitor complained earlier in the year that the flow of trusts through the authorisation process had become a “trickle”.

Although the “drop dead” date of April 2014 for becoming a foundation has been relaxed the Department of Health has said it still “strongly expects” trusts to make this date.

Last week also saw Newcastle Hospitals Foundation Trust and Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust jointly bid to take over debt-saddled North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust.

Cumbria Partnership chief executive Stephen Dalton told HSJ: “It’s the first time two very different organisations have worked collaboratively to acquire an organisation that’s on the brink.”

Both foundation trusts would retain their own boards but work together to provide integrated models of care – but the trust’s debts would need to be restructured by the DH for the plan to succeed.

Two other foundation trusts – Morecambe Bay and Northumbria – have also put themselves forward, separately. North Cumbria’s board is expected to state its preferred acquirer by November.

Meanwhile, the £96m-turnover Trafford Healthcare Trust announced Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust was its preferred takeover partner.

The full range of services at Trafford looks unlikely to be continued in the longer term after commissioners agreed a plan to shift £36m of activity out of the hospital.

And the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London confirmed it could not become a foundation trust in its present form, which it predicted would see it run at a £4m annual deficit once a PFI scheme was completed.

The trust’s board effectively ruled out becoming a social enterprise or being managed as a private franchise. It will seek to expand its private sector work and enter into a partnership either with a foundation trust or a private sector provider.