Monday, 7 November 2016

Ashford and St. Peter's Hospitals merger is off!

Some really good news came out on 4th November; the 'On/Off' merger between Ashford and St. Peter's Hospitals and Royal Surrey County Hospital is not going's 'OFF'!

The Royal County decided the merger was not in their interests - something their medical Consultants told them overwhelmingly in a staff survey a year ago.

In fact what happened was that both trusts finances took a dive last year and in the case of Royal Surrey, disastrously so. The merger was put on hold for them to sort out the mess and it's probably by mutual consent that it isn't now going ahead.

As far as Ashford and St. Peter's was concerned, this was a merger no one wanted - the original merger of the two hospitals in 1998 resulted in the total downgrading of Ashford and the loss of its Accident and Emergency. As a teaching Hospital it had a good reputation and was convenient for its population centre.

Now with most of the land sold off, its reputation reduced and its patients making the long trek out beyond the M25, the merger can't be described as a success.

Since then, its management got merger fever; first they wanted Epsom Hospital, to the extent that they tried to demerge it from its Trust so that they could gobble it up.

That failed - to the relief of every patient contemplating a journey to and from Epsom or any resident of Epsom looking at the cost and difficulty of getting to Ashford or St. Peter's.

Then management wanted to take over Royal County, even though its miles away (22.5 miles each way by car from Ashford and an impossible journey by public transport).

The prize was Royal County's expertise in cancer care - which is a growing need. The Trust wanted that expertise so it could grab some of that 'business' away from the London hospitals and attract those patients to its site at Ashford. Meanwhile, as a bonus Guildford could lose some of its services to pay for the development at Ashford.

It should never have been considered - in patients interests alone. However, the potential loss of staff jobs was also an major issue.

Why does this matter?

Well, apart from the fact that for two years while the management of the Trust could have been concentrating on improving things for the staff and the patients, there is a little matter of the money that has been wasted.

In the 2015/16 Annual Accounts, Ashford and St. Peter's NHS Foundation Trust paid out £855,000 in outside 'consultancy costs'; that's where you pay outside 'Experts' to advise you and it's an area of expenses the Government wants cut down.

In the year 1014/15, the same costs were £2,004,000 which was £1,149,000 more.

Now my guess is that that additional £1,149,000 is most likely to represent the money wasted (in one year alone) on outside consultant's fees spent on the merger and the associated investigation by the competition authorities.

I'll keep sniffing around to see if I can find out any more!

Finally, it should be said that merger's rarely result in improved 'outcomes' and if you don't believe me check out the 'pages' column in the archive on the right hand side of the Blog - read 'The Merger Mania Series', which I wrote a couple of years ago when I wasn't as ill as I am now.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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