Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Merger on hold; patients first or second?

You know how it is; you’ve sent out all the wedding invitations, you’ve booked a horse and carriage, there are geese at the front door, you've been given a lot of nice presents, all your family and friends are assembled in the church to watch you get married in a silly suit….and then the vicar asks if anyone has any objections to the marriage.
No one noticed the ex-girlfriend who just burst in through the door;

This time last year Ashford and St. Peters announced its proposed merger with The Royal County Hospital, Guildford.

It’s a merger no one wants – as I reported before; a survey of consultants at Guildford showed that over 70% felt there would be no advantage for patients.

Obviously there won’t be – mergers just don’t work. All the scientific research shows that hospital mergers result in poorer outcomes and increased management costs….whatever they say.

The proposed merger is all about closing departments, laying off workers and ultimately selling off precious land to balance the books.

Now, embarrassingly, the Competition Authority has put the whole process on hold to investigate whether this will actually work in the interests of patients;

Royal Surrey and Ashford & St Peter's hospital merger delayed for more assessment - Get Surrey 

Plans to merge two Surrey hospital trusts have been delayed after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) decided to carry out further investigations.


The Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in Guildford, and Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were hoping to receive the go-ahead to merge on Thursday (February 19).


However, the CMA has decided to refer the merger to a second assessment phase, which will take six months to examine the plans.


It comes after the authority said it had "found that the merger could result in adverse effects for patients by reducing choice and competition across a range of elective specialties".


Nick Moberly, chief executive at the Royal Surrey, said: “We’re obviously disappointed with this decision as we believe a merger would result in a number of positive benefits for patients."


Management boards at both hospitals were set to discuss the latest turn of events at meetings next week.


Ashford and St Peter's chief executive, Suzanne Rankin, added: "Although this was not the decision we were hoping for, we understand that the CMA needs to carry out a more in-depth analysis of our plans to ensure this is in the best interests of patients.

"Unfortunately this means we will need to wait longer until a final decision is reached.”


The trusts hope the merger will save an estimated £10m-£20m and have said patients will not notice any changes in services in at the three hospital sites.


However, staff expressed their concerns about the plans in a questionnaire seen by the Surrey Advertiser.


Results showed 72% of consultant staff at the Royal Surrey did not believe care for patients would be improved in the proposed partnership, while 74% said they did not think the merger would benefit their department.


Andrea Coscelli, executive director for markets and mergers at the CMA, said: “Our job is to look at the evidence and examine the impact that a proposed merger could have on patient choice and the quality of healthcare services provided.


"Tens of thousands of patients a year are treated by the trusts in the specialties we've looked at and could be potentially affected by the loss of choice they currently have.


"If the trusts no longer have to attract patients who might choose to go elsewhere, it could mean their incentive to maintain and improve quality in those specialties is reduced.


"We acknowledge that there may be some benefits which result from the merger but given the extent of our concerns and the number of specialties and patients involved, we feel it is necessary to look at this merger in greater depth to ensure that it is in patients’ interests."

If you want to know more about the destructive effect of mergers over the last 30 years have a look at my ‘Merger Mania’ pages.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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