Health bosses agree to explore merger

HEALTH bosses in Suffolk have agreed to explore the option of merging the county’s mental health services with a neighbouring authority, it can be revealed.

Board members of Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust agreed at a meeting yesterday to halt their existing application for Foundation Trust status in favour of exploring a merger with Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Speaking at the meeting, held at St Clement’s Hospital in Ipswich, Mark Halladay, chief executive of SMHPT, said now is the time to think of new ways of achieving Foundation Trust status – through the merger.

Mr Halladay said the economic climate has prompted the trust to re-evaluate how it spends public money while delivering services more effectively.

He said the merger would help make savings without having a detrimental effect on frontline services.

He added: “Each Trust has its own strengths that it could bring to the table, which would have a positive impact on the work that we do. Our board has agreed that we should explore this further.”

Although in legal terms the merger will in fact involve the Norfolk trust acquiring SMHPT, Lord Tony Newton, chairman of the board said: “It is completely agreed at board level, by myself, their chair and our chief executives, that the approach will be taken as the merger of the two organisations, coming together to maximise the benefits for both.”

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Concerns raised from patient groups about the provision of services at the meeting were met with reassurance from the board.

Lord Newton said: “There is no way we will start running services in Kings Lynn for people in Ipswich and vice versa. There is no question of everything being run from some centralised unit.

“We would not be doing this if we did not believe it would offer opportunities to improve the standard of service across Norfolk and Suffolk for the benefit of patients.”

Addressing concerns over job cuts as a result of the merger, Mr Halladay said the move would help the trust to make the necessary cost cutting measures they need without impacting on front line services.

The main savings are expected to come from corporate services, there will be just one board for the merged organisation.

The trust currently has turnover of around �93million but Mr Halladay said increasingly it is becoming apparent that for an NHS trust to survive it needs a turnover of around �250million.

From next Friday there will be a three month public consultation period lasting until October. A final decision on whether the merger should happen is likely to be taken in November.