• North West Boroughs Healthcare Foundation Trust says growing financial pressures were “likely to put the quality and safety of patients at risk”
  • Trust has become closely linked to Mersey Care FT in recent years, but would not comment on potential merger partners

A mental health trust is preparing to seek a merger or acquisition by another provider in a bid to address its financial challenges, HSJ has learned.

In a message to staff this afternoon, North West Boroughs Healthcare Foundation Trust said growing financial pressures were “likely to put the quality and safety of patients at risk”.

It said various options were discussed by governors and the trust board at a meeting yesterday, and it was agreed to pursue a “merger or acquisition of the whole organisation with one or more provider trusts”.

The trust reported a breakeven position last year on a turnover of £187m. It is rated as “good” by the Care Quality Commission.

In recent years NWBH has become closely linked to Mersey Care FT, with the trusts sharing a chief information officer and assistant director of employee health and wellbeing. NWBH also runs a community contract in South Sefton under a subcontracting arrangement, and the trusts have previously discussed a partnering agreement for estates.

However, the trust would not comment on potential partner trusts when asked by HSJ.

Simon Barber

Simon Barber, CEO of North West Boroughs Healthcare FT

The staff message, shared proactively with HSJ, added: “Unfortunately, until the board has considered the options paper on 30 September and shared our recommendations with NHS Improvement for their consideration and approval, we are unable to share any more details. We hope to be in a position to do that during October.”

The FT is the main mental health provider to Wigan, Warrington, St Helens, Knowsley and Halton, while it also provides some physical community health contracts.

Financial challenges and signals from regulators have placed more pressure on smaller organisations to consider their future.

Another small provider in the region, Bridgewater Community Healthcare FT is discussing a potential merger/acquisition with Warrington and Halton Hospitals FT.

Simon Barber, chief executive of NWBH, said: “I want to be clear there are no current concerns about patient care. But, in order to assess, address and prevent any potential impact on quality of patient care in the future, we are doing the sensible thing and taking action now.

“Carrying out an options appraisal will support us to thoroughly evaluate our strategic position, identify challenges and consider options for the future.”


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