Scandal-hit Stafford hospital in fight for survival
SCANDAL-HIT Stafford Hospital faces being dissolved and having many key services taken over by the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, it has emerged.
Its break-up moved a step closer after NHS national regulators started the process of placing the complex into administration.
Over the next few weeks Monitor – the regulator of Foundation Trusts such as Stafford – will consult health secretary Jeremy Hunt and the county's NHS funding bodies about appointing administrators to the hospital where the death of hundreds of patients was linked to failings in care.
If brought in, they will take over the running of the trust from the existing board, which would be moved aside.
The troubleshooters would then draw up a final plan for the reorganisation and delivery of health services – but no changes will be made without public consultation.
The move was announced as around 25 members of the Cure the NHS campaign group, which highlighted the Stafford scandal, staged a silent protest at the Manchester headquarters of the NHS Commissioning Board as part of their bid to force the resignation of NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson.
The board is headed by Sir David, who was chief executive of the Staffordshire and Shropshire Strategic Health Authority, during the scandal.
Group founder Julie Bailey said afterwards: "The move towards administration would seem to signal the start of a take over of Stafford's services by the University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) among others.
"We are obviously distressed by the prospect of special administrators going in but it is inevitable really. The hospital has been a victim of poor management, is deep in debt and had too many bad apples not getting behind the hospital."
Despite the crisis, current services at the Stafford complex have been given a clean bill of health by the Care Quality Commission.
But experts Monitor sent into the trust last Autumn concluded last month that the trust was neither clinically nor financially sustainable in its current form in the long term.
UHNS already provides many specialised services for Stafford people under a so-called memorandum of understanding signed by the two trusts. It has also been treating Mid-Staffordshire's night-time A&E cases since the emergency department was closed for safety reasons in December 2011 between 10pm and 8am.
A full take-over would see some staff still working in Stafford Hospital but employed by UHNS.
NHS campaigners have warned that if it went ahead poor medical and nursing practices behind the Stafford scandal must not be allowed to 'pollute' the Hartshill complex.
Stone MP Bill Cash said: "This move is very disappointing and I will be fighting to retain services at Stafford."
Stafford trust chairman Professor John Caldwell said: "We have accepted for some time that working alone we cannot produce a long lasting solution to the issues we face to ensure financial and clinical sustainability."