Mergers Promise a World-Class Diagnosis for Our NHS

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), November 24, 2007 | Go to article overview

Mergers Promise a World-Class Diagnosis for Our NHS


Byline: By Martin Shipton Western Mail

Plans to merge two NHS trusts into what is claimed to be a "world-class" body were agreed yesterday, potentially heralding a major new reorganisation of Wales' health service.

Last night the man who will take charge of the new Swansea Bro Morgannwg Trust if it is approved by Health Minister Edwina Hart said he hoped to deliver "quick wins" for patients.

The boards of the Bro Morgannwg and Swansea NHS Trusts - which together provide health services from the western Vale of Glamorgan to Swansea - both approved the merger plans at a special meeting. A letter has been sent to Mrs Hart, asking her to allow the new trust to operate from the beginning of April.

The trusts claim the main advantages of a merger would be:

The removal of artificial boundaries, which will improve patient access;

Combining strengths, which will boost opportunities to support and improve services;

Getting rid of duplication and unnecessary administration costs;

Providing a large enough patient base to sustain and enhance services, including specialist ones;

Pooling staff experience and expertise and offering better career opportunities;

A more strategic approach to planning services.

If the merger receives the rubber stamp, the new trust will deliver care to a population of around 600,000, employ 16,000 staff and have a budget of more than pounds 770m.

It will be responsible for four acute hospitals - Morriston, Singleton, Princess of Wales and Neath Port Talbot - as well as 14 other hospitals or clinics with beds, and 46 community clinics and health centres. It is thought very likely that Mrs Hart will give the merger the go-ahead.

In July, when discussing the possibility of mergers, she said, "I believe that by streamlining the management of these trusts the benefits of joint working will mean more robust financial management, greater strategic direction and better care for patients."

Yesterday's decision followed extensive consultation with staff, the community health councils, which are patient watchdogs, and partner organisations.

All parties who formally responded backed the plans to merge. They also gave an enthusiastic welcome to aspirations for the new trust to gain university trust status.

Bro Morgannwg chief executive Paul Williams, who will head the new trust if it gains approval, made it clear there would be no compulsory redundancies. He said, "If the merger goes ahead, we will aim to make savings over time through natural wastage.

"This has not been driven by cost savings - both trusts broke even last year, and are on course to do so this year.

"But I expect there would be quick wins for patients with an improved IT system and better co-ordination that should lead to reduced waiting times and smoother aftercare arrangements for people who have undergone hospital treatment."

Calum Campbell, acting chief executive of Swansea NHS Trust, said, "Key to our aspirations to provide healthcare which is comparable with the best in Europe is gaining university trust title.

"This would help attract even more high calibre academic clinicians and medical students, enhance teaching and research activities, and keep medical practice at the leading edges of advances in medical science."

Swansea University Council is also considering the proposal for the new trust to be given university trust status.

If the university endorses the plans, Mrs Hart will be asked to consider a case for the new trust to be granted university trust in its title. It would then be called Swansea Bro Morgannwg University NHS Trust.

Former Bridgend Labour MP and Welsh Office Health Minister Win Griffiths, who chairsBro Morgannwg Trust and is tipped to chair the merged body, said, "I am very excited by the prospect of this merger.

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