STRUCTURE: Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust has put back the date it expects to merge with Medway Foundation Trust, but remains confident the link up will go ahead despite increased scrutiny of its proposals by the Cooperation and Competition Panel.

The two had originally planned to become one organisation this summer. But they have put the date back for submitting a full business case in order to take into account recommendations from the CCP.

The CCP is currently assessing whether the proposed merger is consistent with principle 10 of the Principles and Rules for Cooperation and Competition. Earlier this month it chose to escalate the case to phase II of its process and conduct a more in-depth investigation into the proposals, after its initial assessment concluded the merger “may result in a material adverse effect on patients and taxpayers”. The deadline for completion of this second phase is 6 August.

An update published by Dartford and Gravesham said that while “we continue to make progress on our journey towards integration”, the two organisations had decided to extend “our timeline”.

“We now expect to become one trust by spring 2013,” the update said. “This change will allow the trusts to receive the outcome of the CCP assessment and assess their end-of-year financial positions, before submitting the full business case in September 2012.”