HEREFORDSHIRE can have a hospital trust of its own for at least another two years with the prospect of “considerable” investment in specialist frontline staff.

This afternoon (Thurs), the board of Wye Valley NHS Trust (WVT) rejected a range of options explored over the past year to secure a future for the cash-strapped trust.

The board decision clears the way for WVT to fight for that future on its own terms rather than rely on another Trust or even a private sector provider to maintain or manage acute services.

A £9m funding boost from the NHS Trust Development Agency (TDA) was also confirmed to the board. Confirmation of the TDA’s £9m means WVT - facing a £15m deficit without support - can end the current financial year at break even and is money the Trust does not have to pay back.

The board backed WVT chief executive Derek Smith in agreeing that none of the options proposed for the Trust’s future were likely to be approved by the NHS nationally.

Now, the focus of the Trust shifts to securing short-term survival.

Preliminary talks over services between the Trust and the Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group are due to start tonight (Thurs). Upcoming talks with the TDA and NHS England will examine further options to address the Trust’s financial challenges and healthcare in the county overall.

These talks are significant to the Trust’s five year business plan and will influence strategy over the next 2-3 years.

With finances stabilised, the board was told of WVT's plans for “considerable investment” in specialist frontline staffing needs to recruit additional consultant physicians, more middle grade and junior doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses in acute wards and weekend cover.

While the recruitment drive would substantially add to costs, the TDA’s £9m allows for funding approaches to meet those costs.

But the Trust’s financial position is still listed as an “extreme risk” and finance director Howard Oddy warned the board that the underlying pressures creating the risk remained.

The TDA money meant the Trust could enter into talks over further funding but was given on a guarantee that the Trust could break even by the end of the current financial year, he said.

WVT faced a merger, break up, or even private sector management to cope with a funding crisis that means it cannot achieve foundation trust status this year, as required by the government, or at any time in the foreseeable future.

As explored and rejected, the options to meet Trust Foundation status included: WVT becoming the junior partner of a trust which has already attained foundation status, while maintaining local accountability.

Partnership with a private organisation with WVT run as a local franchise of a private sector partner with all staff and assets staying in the NHS and care free at the point of delivery.

A break up with the trust’s services to be run by a range of public and private sector providers.

Of the three, the board heard, the franchise option was analysed as coming closest to meeting the Trust’s needs while falling short of the full requirement.

The Hereford Times has reported extensively on the Trust’s financial situation and need for support in facing a £15m deficit. Without support, WVT was on course for an overspend of at least £9m on this year’s budget.

WVT has required increasing levels of financial support over recent years just to reach a break even position, with £9.8m needed over 2012/13 alone.

In 2012 the Trust was declared as in “turnaround” to emphasise the urgency and scale of the financial challenges it faced.