STRUCTURE: A group of seven hospital trusts in Yorkshire and Derbyshire are developing plans for joint working on issues including viability, service quality and staff terms and conditions.

Chairs and chief executives of the trusts met last month to discuss potential areas of collaboration, HSJ has learned.

The trusts involved include Chesterfield Royal, Mid Yorkshire, Rotherham, Sheffield Teaching, Sheffield Children’s, Barnsley, and Doncaster and Bassetlaw.

A report on the group’s activities – which is being listed on board agendas across the area – refers to the potential for “quick wins” on changes to conditions for new starters and exploiting existing employment rules, which has alarmed unions.

However, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust interim chief executive Stephen Eames told HSJ its main focus was not pay and terms and conditions. He said the trusts had no plans to form a consortium to move away from national pay and terms agreements.

Mr Eames said a consortium was “not the debate that we are having” and that the terms and conditions were simply “ideas that were being tossed around at that meeting.”

The initiative, called Working Together by the trusts, will look at promoting clinical quality, developing 24/7 services, and ensuring financial viability. Mr Eames said it was a “no brainer” that trusts should discuss how to approach these together.

The meeting to develop plans for the work was also attended by Andy Buck, director of the NHS Commissioning Board’s local area team for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.

In a statement the chairs and chief executives said: “It is absolutely the right approach to work together, collaborating and sharing best practice to ensure we can continue to improve clinical quality standards for our patients whilst at the same time recognising the future financial challenges we face.

“By working together we have the opportunity to use these challenges to push the pace to become better.

“It is very early days and no firm proposals have been agreed. We are all very clear however that the purpose of ‘Working Together’ is not a review of acute services. It is being seen as an opportunity to be ambitious.”

The trust’s boards are expected to approve detailed proposals for the collaboration, including a programme office and potentially lead chief executive, in coming months

Royal College of Nursing regional director Glenn Turp said: “Staff and RCN members will feel anxious and worried about this and how it might impact on them and the services they provide.”