Better care or a loss of services: What difference will hospital merger make?

Peterborough City Hospital exteriors
Peterborough City Hospital exteriors

Better healthcare and millions of pounds of savings, or the demise of services - what will merging Peterborough City Hospital, Stamford Hospital and Hinchingbrooke Hospital mean for patients?

Later this month the boards at Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust and the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (PSHFT) will almost certainly agree to merge.

Shailesh Vara

Shailesh Vara

In Peterborough there appear to be few concerns, with North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara saying the merger should lead to some welcome “economies of scale on the management side.”

He added: “I’ve made clear, however, that there should be no impact on frontline services provided by the hospitals. It’s important that these services remain and are not reduced, particularly A&E and maternity services.”

MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson was also optimistic about the merger, but not as confident that services would be completely untouched.

Praising the PSHFT for its transparency, and backing it to make the merger a success, he said: “It’s dishonest to say nothing will change at all. The point of the merger is to get the best people from the best places to deliver the best healthcare. That might mean units moving between two sites and people moving.”

Mr Jackson was certain, though, that “core functions of acute healthcare in Peterborough will remain.” He added: “I would certainly raise any concerns if I thought there were going to be any widespread problems.”

Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly, a vocal critic of the “acquisition,” as he calls it, has received reassurances that services will remain.

But he said: “I would not want to see the merger happen as there’s a lot of uncertainty around it.”

A PSHFT spokeswoman said the merger is “the best way to ensure the sustainability of clinical services both now and in the future for patients.”

She added that a larger hospital trust would be better at attracting staff, thus removing the need for locums.

She continued: “Patients will not have to travel to access services they have previously accessed at their local hospital. In fact, it is hoped that the merger of the two organisations may provide opportunities to introduce some services at a more local level.”

After a one-off payment of £13 million for the merger to go ahead, the trust said it had been assured from external financial advice that it will save £9 million a year.

PSHFT was on ‘black alert’ from Saturday until yesterday due to high demand in A&E and bed blocking. The spokeswoman said the problems being experienced would not be affected by the merger.

A spokeswoman for UNISON the union said it was willing to endorse the merger, but that it was conditional on guarantees for proper funding and the removal of doubt over services going forward.

Angela Burrows, chief operating officer at Healthwatch Peterborough, which represents the views of patients, said: “We have been assured by the trust that this is only about reducing back office functions and high-level staff.”

The organisation has a final public meeting on Thursday, November 10 at The Fleet in Fleet Way, Fletton from 5.45pm to 7.30pm. To attend, email info@healthwatchpeterborough.co.uk.