STRUCTURE: Cornwall’s only mental health trust and its main acute provider have begun talks to merge the organisations.

  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals and Cornwall Partnership in early stages of merger talks
  • Trusts aim to prepare region for new care models
  • Cornwall Partnership chief does not expect same problems that halted Peninsula merger

Acute provider Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust and Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust, which delivers mental health and community services, are looking to prepare the region to implement the new models of care laid out in the NHS Five Year Forward View, HSJ has been told.

The trusts’ chief executives said in a joint statement: “Our two organisations have agreed to work together to explore whether we can become one integrated NHS provider.


The two Cornwall trusts are exploring becoming one integrated NHS provider

“We both believe that integrating services will lead to higher quality, seamless care for patients and more effective use of public money.”

The announcement comes after merger talks between Cornwall Partnership and the social enterprise Peninsula Community Health ended abruptly in March.

The organisations withdrew from the process because a merger would have required upfront costs they could not afford.

Speaking to HSJ yesterday, Cornwall Partnership chief executive Phil Confue said the new talks were aimed at making sure all local health partners were “fit for purpose” to adopt new care models.

He said:  “We’ve either got to go down the route of a primary and acute care system (PACS) or a multi-community provider model. It’s about beginning to build structures up so we are fit for purpose and we can make those changes happen.

“Quite a lot of [patients] in acute hospitals also have mental health problems – there are more synergies between us [and Royal Cornwall] than people would think in terms of patient recovery.” 

Mr Confue suggested that a successful merger would mark the start of further collaboration with local primary and social care providers.

The two trusts would aim to work closely with Kernow Health, a social enterprise running GP services.

He said: “We would look more closely at how we can create a PACS structure going forward.

“If that’s the model [we want to adopt] we need to ask: what are the reasonable steps we need to take to build that coalition and deliver those high quality services?”

When asked how Cornwall Partnership would avoid the barriers that got in the way of the previous merger discussions, Mr Confue said: “Royal Cornwall would say they have their own set of financial challenges but… because they are an NHS trust [rather than a company] they adhere to the same accounting rules and regulations that we do, so actually drawing together the two organisations will be a much more straightforward process.”

He added that he did not anticipate any competition concerns over the two organisations merging as there was “no real overlap” in the services the two trusts provide.

Royal Cornwall chief executive Bill Shields said: “It’s very early days, but the likely timeframe from the start to the end of this process, if it is successful, would be about two years.”

Citing practical examples of where an integrated service could benefits patients, he said: “I think that we could see much more effective psychiatric liaison therapy, it’s something that all the acute organisations I’ve worked in have struggled with.”

The joint statement added: “We will want to consult further with clinical teams, partner organisations and the wider community to ensure we get this right for patients. Our trust boards will report and discuss the progress in June.”