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NHS trust takeover will put jobs at risk
A HOSPITAL trust which cares for people with learning disabilities across Oxfordshire looks set to be taken over by a Southampton-based NHS trust.
This could lead to job losses at the Oxfordshire Learning Disabilities NHS Trust, but the trust has stressed frontline workers should not be affected.
The Government wants all NHS care providers to gain “foundation status”, which would give them greater independence and control over their finances.
But Oxfordshire Learning Disabilities NHS Trust was one of 21 trusts identified by the National Audit Office in October as unlikely to be able to do this on its own.
Now the trust, also known as the Ridgeway Partnership, is looking to merge with the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust by November.
Yesterday it was announced one of the other trusts on that list, South London Healthcare NHS Trust, is set to be the first in the country to be put under the control of an administrator in the health equivalent of schools’ special measures.
That means it would effectively lose control of its own finances, with an administrator stepping in to make recommendations to the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
A Department of Health spokesman said South London was “categorically” the only trust for which this measure was being considered.
The Ridgeway Partnership provides care for about 3,300 people across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Bath and North East Somerset.
All staff will have a right to transfer to Southern Health.
The exact changes to the structure of the organisation are not known, but the partnership has stressed frontline services should not be affected.
If the acquisition goes ahead, the Ridgeway Partnership will trade as Southern Health and share a pooled £80m budget for learning disability health and social care services. Southern Health’s overall budget is about £320m.
Some trusts fail the test of gaining foundation status due to financial failings.
But Ridgeway Partnership spokesman Janet Ellis said the trust’s current financial forecast for 2012/2013 was a surplus of £284,000.
She said: “We are operating business as usual in terms of services being provided.
“It was a huge process to come to a good decision on our preferred bidder, Southern Health, and now we will hopefully get the acquisition done and dusted.”
Foundation trusts are part of the NHS but are independent bodies, run by governors who include patients, staff, and members of the public, and are free from central government control. Financial freedoms include the ability to o retain financial surpluses to invest in new NHS services.
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