The following statement has been issued by Weston Hospital today:
New ‘NHS only’ partnership route for Weston Area Health NHS Trust
Ending almost two years of uncertainty, Weston Area Health NHS Trust has announced today that with the support of local health commissioners and the NHS Trust Development Authority, it has now decided to seek a partner for the Trust from within the NHS
Weston will now either merge with another NHS Trust, or be acquired by an NHS Foundation Trust in a 50 mile radius. The open market procurement process will end and the Trust expects to announce the successful bidder in autumn 2014.
The ‘NHS only’ merger/acquisition programme has been agreed as the result of significant improvements in clinical services, quality, patient experience and financial stability at Weston.
Over the last year the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has lowered the Trust’s risk rating substantially. The Trust has exceeded national performance targets in A&E and Referral to Treatment and in 2013-2014 reduced its ongoing financial deficit by an additional £1.25 million.
Alongside this, the Trust has identified challenges in the medium to long-term of filling medical staff vacancies which could result in the Trust experiencing difficulties in meeting the demands of a modern-day NHS . These challenges could also impact on maintaining the improvements in quality and performance already achieved. So the Trust, NTDA and local commissioners are in firm agreement that a more formal clinical collaboration and partnership with another Trust must be found.
Commenting about the announcement, Nick Wood, Chief Executive, Weston Area Health NHS Trust said:
“Previously, an ‘NHS only’ route was not an option, but that’s now changed. Due to the fantastic commitment of all our staff, significant improvements across the Trust have put us in a much stronger position than we were 18 months ago when the procurement process first began.
“Fundamentally, Weston must decide how best to respond to the needs of our patients. Clinical recruitment now remains our biggest challenge. New formal collaborations and partnerships will add recruitment value to the Trust - essential if we going to attract enough specialist doctors to fill existing and future vacancies and maintain a robust clinical workforce.
“Weston is the smallest acute Trust in the country” he continued. “Work conducted with NHS North Somerset over the last five years clearly demonstrates that the Trust cannot satisfy the requirements to become a Foundation Trust or find an option that is financially and clinically sustainable as a stand-alone organisation.
“Our belief, shared by local commissioners and the NHS TDA, is that ‘NHS Only’ will keep our improved performance trajectory on track and maintain high levels of clinical and patient care. Looking to the long-term future it’s also the best option to provide sustainable services for the local population and our staff who care for them.”
Professor Stephen Dunn, Director at the NHS Trust Development Authority said:
“As the Trust works to get to grip with issues like the need to provide a broad range of services seven days a week, a solution which sees them merging quickly with or being acquired by another NHS organisation will put them in the best position to respond to patients’ needs.
“Weston has been delivering high quality, timely care to patients for some time” he continued, “And they have delivered key A&E and referral to treatment standards.
It is crucial that patients continue to experience this good care and treatment. The best way to achieve this is by rapidly finding the NHS partner that can ensure patients in Weston continue to receive high quality services for the foreseeable future.”
It is hoped that the decision on the successful acquiring or merging NHS organisation will be made around the end of October 2014 with all formal agreements anticipated to be in place by April 2015. During this process there will be an opportunity for the public to make their views known.
Further Questions and Answers
1. What does this mean – who will be expected to merge or acquire Weston?
An ‘NHS Only’ process has been opened. Only NHS Foundation Trusts or NHS Trusts within 50 miles can submit a bid to either merge if they are a Trust, or acquire, if they are a Foundation Trust Weston Area Health NHS Trust.
2. When will do you expect the merger/acquisition to happen – what is the timetable?
A full schedule is now in place, these are all subject to change but we anticipate:
•End of October 2014 - we expect to announce the preferred bidder.
•December 2014 – March 2015 we hope to announce the successful bidder.
•April 2015 - we aim to have the formal process completed.
3. Is there a preferred NHS partner?
No. The partner will be agreed on the basis of the strength of their business case in meeting five key objectives that have been clearly set out for them.
4. With such significant improvements at Weston do you really need an ‘NHS Only’ acquisition or merger ?
•Yes. Weston is the smallest acute Trust in the country.
•The Trust cannot satisfy the requirements to become a Foundation Trust or find an option that is financially and clinically sustainable as a stand-alone organisation.
•We are required by law to have a management structure that meets the requirements of the Health & Social Care Bill 2012.
5. Who is going to decide on who the new Trust is going to be?
•The Trust and the NHS Trust Development Authority (NHS TDA) will establish a project board consisting of local health economy (Clinical Commissioning Groups and other organisations like North Somerset Council) and Trust representatives to manage the transaction.
•This team will make a recommendation for approval for the NHS TDA and Secretary of state.
6. What’s the background to procurement process
The open market procurement process ‘Securing the Future’ began in October 2012. The North Somerset health community has a long history of financial challenge, and these financial challenges will only get bigger in the future.
There is growing national recognition that it is better for patients if the most routine healthcare is delivered very locally - in GP surgeries or at home – and the most complex healthcare is delivered in large, regional specialist hospitals.
Weston has explored all of the options to meet these challenges, ranging from achieving Foundation Trust status to developing an Integrated Care Organisation. Prior to its disestablishment, the Strategic Health Authority, together with the Trust concluded that, having exhausted all other possible options, the best solution to reduce the need for future financial support was to find an innovative partner to help run services at the Trust more sustainably.