WAITING times need to be reduced before Worthing and Southlands hospitals can be given specialist trust status.
The hospitals, which along with St Richard’s in Chichester make up Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, are seeking Foundation Trust (FT) status from the Department of Health (DoH).
But they have been told by the DoH that further work needs to be done on waiting times, finance and quality governance before the application can be forwarded to Monitor, the independent regulator of FTs.
The trust had hoped to achieve FT status in December this year, but the target date has now been pushed back to next spring. Monitor is likely to begin its assessment in December.
Spencer Prosser, the executive lead for the Foundation Trust Programme, said: “We have been asked to provide some more assurance to the Department of Health around our Foundation Trust application, and that work is well underway.
“Despite the quick progress we are making to demonstrate that we are ready to become a Foundation Trust, we anticipate that the process will now be completed next spring, rather than at the turn of the year as we had initially hoped.
“We are confident we can reassure the department that we will continue to deliver on our financial targets.
“In addition, we have already put plans in place to get waiting times down for the treatments where demand is particularly high, and we are on course to hit waiting time targets by October.
“Similarly, we feel confident that we can give assurance regarding our governance arrangements, as our revised committee structure takes effect.”
Foundation Trusts are not directed by the Government, so they have greater freedom to decide their own strategies and how their services are run.
Financially, they can retain their own surpluses and can borrow to invest in new services.
To gain FT status, the trust must also sign-up 7,000 public members. This week, it announced it had 6,000, after conducting a mailshot to 90,000 residents across West Sussex.
To find out about becoming a member of the trust, visit www.westernsussexhospitals.nhs.uk or call Rachel Morris on 01903 205111, ext 4258.