What next for George Eliot Hospital Trust?

Seven organisations have thrown their hats into the ring to potentially partner with, or take over, the Nuneaton based trust, which has accepted it will not reach foundation status alone.

Six of the seven have been named: Care UK, Circle, Serco Group, Dudley Group of Hospitals Foundation Trust, Burton Hospitals Foundation Trust and South Warwickshire Foundation Trust.

NHS Midlands and East has not ruled out a Hinchingbrooke type model, even though, as HSJ has reported, health minister Simon Burns told MPs in November there were no plans for similar franchises.

Burton has challenges of its own after being found in significant breach of its Monitor authorisation and reporting “significant risks” to its planned financial out-turn. Chief executive Helen Ashley has said partnership plans “must not distract us from the development and delivery of our turnaround”.

Dudley, meanwhile, was amber/red rated by Monitor in January for governance issues, although it seems to have overcome last year’s financial challenges and had a £400,000 surplus at quarter 2.

South Warwickshire, which reported a surplus of more than double its target amount at the end of 2011, was due to discuss the takeover plans again yesterday.

Who could the seventh be? Not Heart of England Foundation Trust, which pulled out last week. But joining with a specialist is named as one of six options listed by George Eliot. The other options are merging as equals, being taken over, vertical integration, joining an NHS hospital “super-chain” or partnership with a foundation trust or private sector body.

The plans are due to take shape over the next year. Watch this space.