£1bn bailout to NHS trusts in six years

Struggling NHS trusts have received more than £1bn in emergency bailout funds in the past six years, with a huge gap between the country's strongest and weakest organisations, a new report reveals.

The Department of Health gave emergency funds to four NHS foundation trusts and 17 NHS trusts between 2006 and 2012 so that they could pay staff and creditors, according to the National Audit Office report into financial of the NHS.

This included £356m to South London Healthcare NHS Trust and its predecessors, which earlier this month was put under external financial control after it was declared bankrupt by the Government. None of the money has been paid back.

The beleaguered trust was given £79m – the single largest payment last year – as Government bailouts increased by 333 per cent from £76m to £253m in just 12 months.

Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, last night described the massive rise as "shocking" and called on the Government to show how it would protect trusts from going bust.

Another London trust, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, where safety has been under the spotlight, has been given £195m by the DoH to aid its dire finances.

The report also reveals that the Government is likely to hand out another £300m in the coming financial year as 34 trusts reported deficits in 2011/12. This is despite the fact that last year there was a surplus of £2.1bn across the NHS as a whole. Last night Health Minister Andrew Lansley said the NHS was in "robust financial health".