• NHS Improvement puts merger between three West Midlands trusts on hold
  • Birmingham Community Healthcare FT, Black Country Partnership FT and Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership Trust were due to merge this month
  • Regulator has halted the merger with no new date for completion confirmed

A merger of three trusts in the West Midlands has been put on hold by NHS Improvement.

NHSI has put on ice the anticipated tie-up between Birmingham Community Healthcare Foundation Trust, Black Country Partnership FT and Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership Trust.

The triple merger, which would have created one of the biggest community and mental health trusts in England, was meant to be completed by 1 December but has been paused indefinitely.

HSJ revealed the merger plans in June and initially the trusts aimed to complete it by October, however the deadline was pushed to December as the original timeframe was too “ambitious”.

It is not clear why the merger plans have now been put on hold. A Birmingham Community spokesman said no new date had been confirmed for finishing the merger.

The pause was referenced in a BBC report last month. In the report, Karen Dowman, former chief executive of Black Country Partnership, also raised concerns about the proposed merger.

In October, HSJ reported that Richard Kirby, chief executive of Walsall Healthcare Trust, will take over at Birmingham Community following the departure of Tracy Taylor. Mr Kirby is due to start in early 2018.

Earlier this year, the three trusts were named as preferred providers of a multispecialty community provider contract. The spokesman confirmed this would not be affected by the merger pause.

A statement from the three trusts said: “As a result of further important work needed to prepare for integration, our target date to become one organisation has changed.

“1 December was always a provisional working date, giving us a timescale with the flexibility for us to adapt as we complete some quite complex preparations.

“What is important is that we get this right, so taking more time to do so is the sensible approach.

“The three trusts continue to work closely with our regulatory body, NHS Improvement, and are making good progress.

“However, additional preparatory work is required on elements of the business case, including further development of our proposed medical management arrangements prior to ‘day one’ of the new organisation.”