Hos­pi­tals merger de­layed by fi­nan­cial ar­range­ments

Both sets of gov­er­nors are con­fi­dent a deal to merge the neigh­bour­ing trusts will go ahead

Aldershot News & Mail - - NEWS -

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”.

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