STRUCTURE: The trust has announced criteria for organisations bidding to merge with either of its two hospitals.

The trust is seeking to split itself into two in order to attain foundation trust status for its two hospital sites.

Three bidders have emerged – Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust from the South East Coast region and London’s St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust.

In a statement dated 18 August, Epsom and St Helier said: “The special board in charge of demerging Epsom and St Helier hospitals to ensure they achieve foundation trust status has announced the criteria by which the organisations bidding to partner them will be judged.”

The top five priorities are:

  • The new partner must deliver better outcomes and benefits for patients;
  • They must provide better care for local residents;
  • They must improve the way local health services work together (also known as integrated care);
  • They must have plans in place for uniting the combined workforce, including managing, supporting and developing staff;
  • The partner must be ready to merge, minimising uncertainty for both patients and staff.

Jan Sawkins, independent chair of the transaction board, said: “The bidders will need to put forward a vision which demonstrates how they will improve healthcare services for local people. This may mean new investment in services, sharing the expertise of doctors and nurses, and spending money on improving buildings and other infrastructure.

“It is important to remember that this process is not about service change. The organisations bidding to take over Epsom or St Helier will be required to run all of the services currently provided at that hospital, including accident and emergency and maternity. As such, there will be close scrutiny of the bidders’ plans to maintain, improve and enhance services.”

She added: “The results also show that local people, patients and staff are keen to ensure that future partners look after staff at both hospitals. This will include bringing the newly combined workforce together, as well as plans for supporting them in the future: from training, education and development, to communication and engagement.”

The bidders have until 11 November 2011 to submit their bids, which is eight weeks longer than originally planned. Final recommendations will be made by the transaction board in January 2012.

Ms Sawkins said: “We have always recognised that there is a significant amount of work involved in putting together a bid. Following formal requests from the bidders, we have agreed to extend the deadline for bids with a view to ensuring the bidders put in the best, and most detailed, possible proposals.”

For Epsom (including the elective orthopaedic centre), the potential bidders are:

  • Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

For St Helier (including Sutton Hospital), it is:

  • St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust