Epsom and St Helier hospital trust has been referred to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after auditors raised concerns over the state of its finances.

The Audit Commission has referred 19 trusts to Mr Hunt after reviewing 98 trusts running hospital, ambulance and community services.

Epsom and St Helier has been referred as the Commission found it failed to break even in 2013-14 and believes it does not have vigorous plans in place to balance its books in the near future.

The hospitals ended 2013-14 with a deficit of £7.4million. 

The Commission had concerns about one-third of the trusts it reviewed, although the 19 which have been referred for greater scrutiny are those with the most pressing financial problems. 

Epsom and St Helier hospital trust has not yet responded to this newspaper’s request for a response to the Commission’s findings or details about its financial situation.

But Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington, said: "The Trust's position is well-known.  

"In recent years it has been operating at a deficit.

"But the deficit is reducing year on year and the Trust is on track to make a surplus next year. 

"With both recovering finances and good quality health care, the Trust's future is not in doubt."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it understood the financial challenges faced by some trusts, but by "making tough economic decisions" it has been able to increase the NHS's budget by £12.7billion over the course of this parliament. 

She added: "It is essential that Trust CEOs have a tight financial grip and ensure they live within their means."

The Audit Commission only examined in-depth those trusts which have not achieved foundation trusts status.  Those trusts which have been awarded foundation status have achieved a significant degree of managerial and financial independence from the Department of Health, compared to other hospital trusts.

Following publication of this article, Chrisha Alagaratnam, Epsom and St Helier hospital trust's chief executive, issued this statement: "We have made incredible strides in improving patient care while closing our financial gap, and are currently forecasting to break even at the end of this financial year.

"We have been entirely transparent and open about our challenging financial position and recognise that the Audit Commission have a statutory responsibility to formally notify the Secretary of State regarding NHS trusts who have posted an aggregate deficit in the last three years.  

"It is important to note that in referring this matter to the Secretary of State, the Audit Commission recognised that our Trust has reported a significantly improved financial position for 2013-14 in our draft accounts and have submitted a break even plan for the current year.  

"In addition, our break even plan has been accepted by the NHS Trust Development Authority, the organisation that oversees all non-Foundation trusts.

"I would like to assure all of our patients, visitors and staff that we do have a robust plan in place to balance the books at the end of the year.  

"I am proud of just how far our organisation has come in the past three years, thanks to the hard work and determination of all our staff and volunteers.

"For example, we perform very strongly in A&E, our results in the highly regarded Dr Foster Hospital guide have shown that we’re a very safe organisation - with consistently lower death rates than expected, and our maternity units have grown in popularity and size over the past three years.

"Put simply, we are bucking the trend in that our clinical quality continues to improve, as does our financial outlook."

Speaking to the Epsom Guardian, Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom and Ewell, said he does not think people should be concerned about the trust's referral to Mr Hunt.  

He said: "I have watched how the hospitals have improved over the last three years, they are on the mend financially and the deficit has improved massively.  

"The trust has a budget in which it has planned to break even this year.  

"I don't think there's a sense that there is a short-term financial threat to Epsom Hospital because of the financial position of the trust.

"It's a hospital that has got to grips with its financial problems and this doesn't truly reflect the improvements that have taken place.  

"It is an accounting technicality.  The Commission's findings covered a problem period for the trust but we are now at the end of the problem period.

"The Trust is now moving towards applying for Foundation Trust status."

Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Burstow added: "Everyone at St Helier has worked hard to turn the trusts finances around.

"The referral is a setback but should obscure the obscure the fact that the Trust's financial health is improving.

"What is remarkable about St Helier is how resilient it is.

"Despite all the difficulties it has maintain grip on clinical quality and improved.

"The Trust is posting a break-even and the is moving into the black."

What do you think?  Leave a comment below.