STRUCTURE: The merger of Epsom Hospital with Ashford and St Peter’s Foundation Trust came a step closer today after a transaction board announced the Surrey foundation as the preferred partner.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals’ transaction board, which is in charge of overseeing the de-merger has given its approval and. Subject to the health secretary’s approval, it will take place on April 1 2013.

Jan Sawkins, chair of the board, said: ““The vision Ashford and St Peter’s have put forward for the future of Epsom Hospital is extremely positive and I am confident it will deliver significant benefits to the people of Epsom and surrounding areas. 

“There is, of course, a lot more work to be done to prepare for the merger, including developing more detailed plans for integrating the two organisations.  However, I know all those involved will do their very best to ensure the smoothest possible transition, keeping to an absolute minimum the impact on patients and staff.”

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of the trust, said: “I am extremely pleased with this decision and, from working with Ashford and St Peter’s hospitals, we know they are absolutely committed to further improving health services for local people.

“Moreover, Ashford and St Peter’s’ bid also put forward a detailed plan to integrate the nurses, doctors and other staff who currently work at Epsom into the combined organisation, with a real commitment to ensuring they are engaged and consulted with throughout.” 

“As people may remember, St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, regrettably, withdrew their bid.  However, our focus now is to find a new solution for St Helier and Sutton and, working with our doctors, nurses and other colleagues, as well as local GPs, councils and NHS partners, we are examining other options for the future of the hospitals.  This must ensure they are sustainable – both financially and clinically – for the long term. 

“This includes looking at whether other local NHS services could be brought onto the sites to maximise the benefits to patients and improve efficiency.  We are also looking at the services which we currently provide on the sites to see if changes to the way they are delivered would help.”

The trust is looking at a list of possible options for the future of St Helier and Sutton hospitals and it is expected at the end of the summer.