Three London hospitals could close as an NHS trust has been formally warned that it could be declared bust within weeks.
South London Healthcare Trust has built up a £150 million deficit because of massive PFI payments it was forced to make for hospital buildings.
The trust runs the Princess Royal University Hospital in Orpington, Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich.
Even health secretary Andrew Lansley admits that the trust’s problems are “not of its own making”. But he is refusing to offer the trust any kind of bailout.
Instead he is forcing it into a so-called “unsustainable providers regime”. Administrators could take over the trust within weeks. It is then likely to be dissolved—and the future of the services it offers put at risk.
The crisis could lead to cuts in neighbouring trusts too as services are “reconfigured”. Even if the hospitals do not close, they could face being handed over to a private firm as part of a “rescue deal”.
There up to 22 other NHS trusts with similar debt problems caused by PFI and decades of underfunding. But the government looks likely to seize on this to argue that the NHS is going bankrupt and accelerate its vicious plans for the privatisation of healthcare.