Service Reconfiguration

23.08.18

Boss promises no hospitals at risk when major foundation trust merger goes ahead

The boards of both South Tyneside and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS foundation trusts are supportive of a formal merger between the two providers and have promised that neither hospital will cease to exist under the plans.

Proposals to bring the two FTs together were discussed this week at South Tyneside Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Coordinating Committee, where members explained how the merger could lead to anticipated savings of over £8m between 2019-20 and 2022-23 “compared to doing nothing or continuing in alliance.”

The two providers have worked together in strategic alliance since 2016. They first decided to explore a possible merger in January this year and decided in May that this would be the preferred direction of travel.

“We want to be very clear that both hospitals [South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital] will continue to exist and continue to play key roles in the future, regardless of whether a merger takes place,” a presentation laid out in front of the committee said.

“There will, however, need to be some changes to the way we deliver care in future. This will be worked through with our clinical teams as part of Phase 2 of Path to Excellence.”

Any future significant changes to hospital services would be subject to A formal public consultation planned for summer 2019. However, there is no statutory requirement to consult the public formally as part of merger plans, as they are merely considered as a change to organisational form.

A full HR consultation will still take place, however, as all staff will have to transfer to a new employer.

In a statement last month, the CEO of South Tyneside NHS FT and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS FT, Ken Bremner, said that the providers have “started to make great strides” towards a joint vision over the past two years in order to provide “nationally recognised, high-quality and sustainable healthcare services.”

“We firmly believe that a formal merger of our two trusts will put us in a really strong position for the future, allowing us to further accelerate the pace of positive change and to deliver many more quality improvements for the benefit of both our patients and our staff,” Bremner said.

Speaking to the Shields Gazette this week, the CEO said the two boards believe “very strongly that a formal merger now is essential so that we can further accelerate the pace of positive change.”

If given the go-ahead, the two FTs could be joined up by April next year. This would see a single, unified trust be responsible for around 675,000 patients across Sunderland, South Tyneside and parts of North Durham, employing more than 8,500 staff.

Also in the region: just yesterday campaigners were given the green light to pursue a legal challenge against plans to transfer services between CCGs in the Tyne and Wear area. The matter will be taken to the High Court, where a judge will consider whether the plans should be overturned.

(Top image: Outpatient entrance to Sunderland Royal Hospital c. geograph.org.uk)

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