Trust target 'difficult to achieve'
The Government's goal for the majority of NHS trusts to become foundation trusts by 2014 "will be extremely difficult to achieve", MPs have said.
In a report, the Public Accounts Committee said it remains "unclear whether all the problems trusts facing trusts can be resolved" and pointed to the potential for vulnerable patients to suffer if trusts have to merge.
The study follows a report in October from the National Audit Office which said many NHS trusts in England are struggling to become foundation trusts due to financial problems.
It said of those trusts in England yet to achieve foundation trust status, 80% face financial issues, 65% have quality and performance problems and 39% are tackling issues over governance and leadership.
Some financial problems are long-standing, including costly private finance initiative schemes.
But trusts are also struggling due to the Government's efficiency drive, which means the NHS must find around £20 billion of savings by 2013/14.
The Government has already scrapped a deadline for trusts to achieve foundation trust status by April 2014.
However, it expects the majority of NHS trusts to become foundation trusts by April 2014, either on their own or through merger, with all expected to do so "as soon as clinically feasible". Some 20 trusts have already said they are not viable in their current form.
The report said any mergers or reconfiguration of services must not lead to cuts for vulnerable people.
"Reconfiguration will inevitably reduce the range of services provided by some hospitals. The Department of Health will have to support otherwise unviable services in some parts of the country so that all local people have access to the healthcare they have a right to expect."