STRUCTURE: Two small provider trusts - both of which have aggressively pursued service and organisational integration - have indicated they may form partnerships with the independent sector.

Weston Area Health Trust, which has a turnover of about £95m, last week said it was formally seeking expressions of interest from potential partners to secure its viability.

It announced it was not viable in its current form in 2011 and began discussions with its local council and community provider about creating an integrated care organisation. However, the trust decided its financial problems were too great and these plans were abandoned last year.

A prior information notice was due to be sent out this week seeking expressions of interest from NHS and independent sector organisations interested in partnering with the trust.

In his report to the trust’s latest board meeting chief executive Peter Colclough said: “Whichever route we end up taking, it is clear to me that we must and will continue to provide NHS services for NHS patients and that whatever option is finally selected all staff and assets will remain within the NHS.”

This does not rule out working with a private sector in a franchising arrangement, such as that seen at Hinchingbrooke Healthcare Trust, where the partner is contracted by the NHS to manage the organisation.

Mr Colclough was appointed to the trust in September 2011 to lead the integration work. He is to stand down at the end of this month, but will continue to chair a programme board set up to determine the organisation’s future.

Director of operations Nick Wood will become acting chief executive from 1 April.

A spokeswoman for the trust said: “This market-sounding process does not commit the trust to any further action at this stage. It is simply to enable us to confirm whether or not there are either NHS organisations or independent sector organisations who would be interested in working with us in the future.”

Meanwhile, Wye Valley Trust, in Herefordshire, also last week announced it “cannot meet the requirements to achieve foundation trust status alone” and that it had begun considering options including “going into partnership with a private sector organisation and be run as a local franchise”. Other options include the trust merging with an existing foundation trust, or being split up.

Wye Valley has previously been hailed as a leading example of integration, as it provided acute, community and social care.