Primary care trusts in Essex have opted to go their separate ways on transforming community services following a brief flirtation with plans for a joint social enterprise.

NHS South East Essex and NHS Mid Essex had previously planned to merge their community services in a social enterprise scheme.

The board’s main concerns were around ensuring an outcome that would deliver staff confidence

But NHS South East Essex announced on 27 March that this was “now not an option” and it would instead be seeking to integrate with “local NHS and local authorities”, though it did not disclose which trusts it was now looking to partner with.

NHS Mid Essex meanwhile said on 1 April that it would be continuing with the idea of establishing a social enterprise.

The board at South East Essex said it had been a tough choice between a social enterprise and integration, with “very similar” benefits identified from both approaches. But “on balance it was decided that integration was the right way forward”.

NHS South East Essex chair Katherine Kirk said: “This was a very difficult decision; perhaps one of the most difficult decisions this board has had to make.

“The board’s main concerns were around ensuring an outcome that would deliver staff confidence and consequently staff wellbeing, offer sustainability and quality of services, while also offering value for money. Much consideration was also given to a model that supports our strategic vision and the feedback received from local stakeholders.

However, Mid Essex said its provider arm, Central Essex Community Services, was already achieving commercial success following its split from the commissioner.

NHS Mid Essex chief executive Sheila Bremner said: “There is a very strong leadership team and a high-performing staff that is continually improving patient care by bringing in new ideas and innovation. The development of telehealth, for example, where doctors can monitor patients at home through a simple phone line connection, is leading the way nationally for others to follow.

“Given Central Essex Community Services’ track record and achievements, the PCT board decided that the best option in Mid Essex is to support Central Essex Community Services in pursuing the social enterprise route to becoming a fully established legal entity.”