Hos­pi­tals merger is given the green light

Solihull News - - NEWS - ALI­SON STACEY ali­son. stacey@ trinitymirror. com

TWO ma­jor hospi­tal Trusts have fi­nally been given the green light to merge, af­ter the com­pe­ti­tions reg­u­la­tor gave them the all- clear to make a “su­per- trust”.

The Heart of Eng­land NHS Foun­da­tion Trust ( HEFT), which runs Soli­hull, Good Hope and Heart­lands hos­pi­tals, and the Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tals Birm­ing­ham NHS Foun­da­tion Trust ( UHB), which runs the Queen El­iz­a­beth Hospi­tal, of­fi­cially an­nounced their merger in Septem­ber last year.

Eleven months ear­lier, UHB chief ex­ec­u­tive Dame Julie Moore and chair­woman Jac­qui Smith were parachuted in as in­terim bosses to HEFT, af­ter se­ri­ous con­cerns by health reg­u­la­tor Mon­i­tor over their fi­nances.

It cames just weeks af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was launched into HEFT’s fi­nances, af­ter it ac­cu­mu­lated an “un­ac­cept­able” deficit of £ 30 mil­lion in just five months.

Now, the Com­pe­ti­tions and Mar­ket­ing Author­ity ( CMA) has given the hospi­tal trusts, which have a joint turnover of more than £ 1.4 bil­lion a year, the go- ahead.

It fol­lows an in­ves­ti­ga­tion launched on July 4 into con­cerns that the merger could af­fect com­pe­ti­tion across elec­tive spe­cial­i­ties.

But the CMA found that the “sub­stan­tial im­prove­ments to pa­tient care ex­pected” from the merger far out­weighed any com­pe­ti­tion con­cerns.

And HEFT was de­scribed as a “weak com­peti­tor with­out the sup­port of UHB”. The CMA claims that, since the take- over in October 2015, pa­tients have seen “a re­duc­tion in wait­ing times, and im­prove­ment in pa­tient safety and care for all HEFT pa­tients”.

In a state­ment it added: “These im­prove­ments and a num­ber of other longert­erm ben­e­fits would dis­ap­pear with­out the merger and the con­tin­ued pres­ence of the UHB man­age­ment at HEFT.”

Kate Collyer, deputy chief eco­nomic ad­viser and the de­ci­sion maker in this case, said: “The hos­pi­tals in­volved pre­sented clear ev­i­dence and a well­rea­soned case.

“Com­pe­ti­tion cur­rently plays a limited role in the NHS, as health com­mis­sion­ers and reg­u­la­tors have in­stead em­pha­sised co- op­er­a­tive work­ing to han­dle grow­ing de­mand for NHS ser­vices.

“How­ever, given the scale of the po­ten­tial im­pact on pa­tients in Birm­ing­ham and Soli­hull, it was ap­pro­pri­ate for the CMA to ex­am­ine this trans­ac­tion to de­ter­mine whether any loss of choice or com­pe­ti­tion would be out­weighed by im­prove­ments un­der­taken by the par­ties and over­seen by NHS Im­prove­ment.”

Given the scale of the po­ten­tial im­pact on pa­tients in Birm­ing­ham and Soli­hull, it was ap­pro­pri­ate for the CMA to ex­am­ine this trans­ac­tion. KATE COLLYER

Soli­hull Hospi­tal and, inset, Heart­lands

Dame Julie Moore

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