Silence on trust's future - will it have to merge?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 July 2011

Views of Weston General Hospital, Grange Rd, Uphill.; 13-4-05

Views of Weston General Hospital, Grange Rd, Uphill.; 13-4-05

Archant

THE health trust which manages Weston General Hospital may have to merge with another organisation under plans to become a foundation trust, the Mercury understands.

Last month, Weston Area Health Trust confirmed it was taking steps to make the switch in a bid to gain greater independence and attract private funding.

But the managing trust, which has an annual turnover of £90million, is not thought to be large enough to convert to the foundation status alone.

Bosses have submitted a Tripartite Formal Agreement plan to the Department of Health detailing how they could achieve the change.

However, this week, neither outgoing chief executive Lorene Read nor NHS North Somerset would comment on what the proposals entail.

They also refused to answer questions on whether Weston Area Health Trust would have to merge with a neighbouring health trust.

A Government White Paper outlines expectations that all NHS trusts should become foundation trusts by 2014.

The idea by ministers is part of a larger plan to create a ‘patient-led’ NHS equipped to meet people’s needs.

So far, 137 health trusts have made the switch to a foundation trust.

This week, Mrs Read revealed to the Mercury she was to leave the trust after four years to join Kettering General Hospital Foundation Trust.

She said: “We are waiting on feedback from the Government on the plan – there will be soon an opportunity to see what is inside that document.

“I would say Weston is a very healthy organisation.

“There will always be a hospital in Weston – we want to be community-focused and look after the population in a clean and safe way.”

A spokesman for NHS North Somerset said: “We are currently engaged in discussions across the health community of North Somerset about the status of Weston General Hospital but it is far too early in the process to provide a definitive statement.”

The Mercury understands that if Weston Area Health Trust had to merge it would likely pick a neighbouring health trust or private management team.

The move, however, could result in Weston General Hospital losing services as the NHS attempts to save money.

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