Hospitals merger delayed by financial arrangements
Both sets of governors are confident a deal to merge the neighbouring trusts will go ahead
FRIMLEY Park Hospital’s (FPH) proposed takeover of a neighbouring Berkshire hospital trust has been delayed while final financial details are ironed out.
FPH’s acquisition of Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HWPH) was first touted in February last year when it was announced the trusts would explore a ‘closer working partnership’.
The Portsmouth Road hospital was finally given permission to complete the deal 15 months later, in May, when the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) approved the bid.
That decision was rubberstamped at a joint-meeting of governors from the trusts last Thursday, with the newly merged hospitals due to have started working together tomorrow (Friday).
But the meeting raised fresh questions over the financial nuances of the deal, which have seen progress put on hold until a new finance package can be agreed. In a joint-statement on Monday, the trusts said both councils of governors had agreed to support the deal, in the best interests of delivering ‘excellent and sustainable’ longterm healthcare services in both areas.
“On July 24, the boards recommended to their respective councils of governors, they too should support the acquisition. Both councils voted overwhelmingly to do so,” read the statement. “This was a major milestone, as support from both councils of governors is needed to enable the transaction. The FPH board is in final discussions with the relevant public authorities. Once these are concluded satisfactorily, the trusts will be able to approach foundation trust regulator, Monitor, formally for final approval.
“Matters that remain to be resolved are agreement on an appropriate funding support package and confirmation of an indicative risk rating for the transaction from Monitor.”
In May, HWPH was rated ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and placed in special measures after a five-day inspection.
The commission found 18 areas for improvement, including a lack of continuity among staffing and poor working practices between different teams.
Chief inspector Sir Mike Richards said HWPH was suffering a ‘legacy’ of problems and stressed the trust’s leadership was not equipped to bring ‘deep, long-lasting change’.
In making its decision on the merger, the CMA examined evidence from Monitor, GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) from the merged trust’s proposed catchment area – in Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire – and the CQC.
The CMA report said the deal would not lead to a “material reduction” in the quality of services for patients, nor a loss of choice for patients, CCGs or the NHS. It added, the move would not impact the hospitals’ incentives to “innovate and improve”.