Four acute trusts in Lancashire will continue discussions about sharing services, despite failing to secure ‘vanguard’ status.

The trusts had requested project management and cash support from NHS England under its acute care collaboration vanguard programme, but their bid was not among the 13 approved by the national body last month.

Blackpool Victoria Hospital

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals is one of the providers involved in the collaboration

The trusts are: East Lancashire Hospitals Trust; Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust; Blackpool Teaching Hospitals FT; and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay FT.

Kevin McGee, chief executive at East Lancashire, said: “It’s very early days in terms of the discussions, and we’ve deliberately said at this stage that we want to look at a broad canvas.

“It’s very much about keeping the sovereign organisations, but working differently to support one another, and getting the clinical teams to talk.”

He said discussions have already started around stroke care, while orthopaedic services are also likely to be considered.

In many cases, the distances between the organisations means clinical networks between the trusts are a more likely option than centralisation.

Mr McGee said there is also scope for sharing back office and support services, and creating a shared IT system.

He added: “We are different to a Manchester or London but we can absolutely standardise how the clinicians work and do their business across the patch, and get common protocols. Money is obviously part of conversation, but it’s also about routing out variation.”

The four trusts all have significant financial challenges. Their combined deficit forecast for 2015-16 equates to nearly 7 per cent of their turnover, compared to an average of 4 per cent nationally.

Karen Partington, chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said: “We all have relatively new chief executives, medical directors and chief operating officers, so we don’t carry some of the historical baggage that you can get with neighbouring trusts.

“We recognise the organisations can’t carry on working in the way they have been, and the financial situation has created an imperative to do something sooner rather than later.”