Two Cambridgeshire hospital trusts have said they will consider their “potential organisational form”, as part of a review of how they could work more closely together.
Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust released a joint statement today saying they would review how financial and clinical benefits could be achieved through more collaborative working.
“We have started a programme of open forums where staff can pose any questions or concerns they may have”
The statement said: “We have decided to work together to review: what savings could be jointly achieved by working more collaboratively, particularly focusing on back office services; how we could collaborate clinically to develop a clinical strategy and improve outcomes for patients; potential organisational form.
“We have shared this news with our staff in both organisations today and have started a programme of open forums where staff can pose any questions or concerns they may have to their chief executive,” it said.
But Jonathan Djanogly, Conservative MP for Huntingdon, said the review could threaten the future viability of Hinchingbrooke.
He told local paper the Hunts Post: “The worry here is that Peterborough will acquire Hinchingbrooke and move main wards from Hinchingbrooke into their vacant floor, leading to sustainability issues for Hinchingbrooke.”
“Also of concern is that the NHS acquisition rules seem not to provide for a need for consultation which will clearly not be acceptable for Huntingdonshire residents. From a Huntingdonshire perspective, the loss of services are clearly of great concern,” he added.
There have been discussions previously about merging the two trusts. It was revealed last January that private firm Circle, which was running Hinchingbrooke at the time, wanted to take control of both trusts and “partner” them.
“We are very concerned about what this could mean for patient care and also for the jobs of hardworking health professionals”
When asked if the review could result in a full merger of the two organisations, both which have large budget deficits, a spokeswoman for Peterborough told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal that no further information was currently available.
The trusts said they decided to carry out the review following discussions with other local health leaders about developing a plan to address the significant challenges across the entire Cambridgeshire and Peterborough health economy.
The statement added: “The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough health system faces a significant financial challenge, both now and longer term. Local health and social care organisations have been working together in recent months to identify ways in which we can work together to meet this challenge.”
The main blueprint for the wider piece of work, the System Transformation Programme, was published in July and is being overseen by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group. It said the health economy was facing “a funding shortfall of at least £250m by 2019”.
In December, the National Audit Office disclosed that Peterborough and Stamford’s debt for 2014-15 was £38.5m, while Hinchingbrooke’s deficit for the same period was £11.4m.
“From a Huntingdonshire perspective, the loss of services are clearly of great concern”
In February 2012, Circle took operational control of Hinchingbrooke but gave up its contract in January last year, blaming “unprecedented” increases in accident and emergency attendances and funding cuts.
Regarding the new plans, Unite regional co-ordinating officer Ian Maidlow said: “We are very concerned about what this could mean for patient care and also for the jobs of hardworking health professionals.
“It is too early to say precisely what changes are being proposed to services, and we will work hard to represent the interests both of our members and the integrity of the services they provide in such a dedicated fashion to the people of Cambridgeshire,” he said. “However, we fully expect that there will be a detrimental impact on service provision.
“We will be meeting senior management of both trusts to ascertain more details about their proposals,” he added.