Protecting fragile services and delivering millions of pounds of savings are the decisive factors behind a merger which will take place between the trusts which run hospitals in Peterborough, Stamford and Hinchingbrooke.
A courtship that began out of necessity has developed into a marriage of convenience with the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (PSHFT) and Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust (HHCT) agreeing to merge on April 1 next year.
Both board of governors have now agreed to an outline business case which will soon be developed into something more substantive. This will see all three hospitals run the same operationally.
The desperate need for change was highlighted on Tuesday by Dr Kanchan Rege, medical director at PSHFT, who said: “We are going to need each other.
“Some services are clinically fragile. If someone is off sick they could not cover that.
“We would have to find locum agency staff. And we know they are very expensive and of variable quality.”
PSHFT is clinically sustainable, but not financially. HHCT is neither.
Dr Rege pinpointed a cap on locum pay, a seven day NHS and junior doctors’ contracts as future strains on the local service. Hinchingbrooke, she said, had much higher staff vacancies than Peterborough and Stamford, despite offering the same terms, because it was a smaller hospital.
But she warned: “These challenges are going to come to us.”
Savings of at least £9 million a year are expected from the merger, some of which will come from job losses, including those at the top.
PSHFT chief executive Stephen Graves said: “At some point there will be some friction. There will be two people going for the same job, and people in here will be at the front of that.”
Dr Rege, though, said staff shortages would diminish due to the attraction of working in a larger organisation with better job prospects. She also said services would not change, apart from treatment for rarer conditions which might be provided on one site.
Specialist staff will also be asked to treat patients at both hospital trusts.