The Foundation Trust Network has urged Jeremy Hunt to prioritise trusts’ financial and clinical sustainability over concerns relating to competition.

The network’s chief executive Chris Hopson wrote to the health secretary last week saying trusts must be allowed to merge or reconfigure without being obstructed by the competition authorities.

HSJ has reported extensively the delays suffered by two foundation trusts in Dorset whose merger plans have so far cost them millions in legal and consultancy fees as they go through the a process overseen by the Office of Fair trading and Competition Commission.

Mr Hopson’s letter called for “a fuller definition of ‘patient interest’, which, where proven, should override concerns about significant lessening of competition”.

“In the current environment, there is a clear consensus the NHS needs to change its delivery models to remain sustainable and improve quality,” he said.

“The process of evaluating the impact of significant transactions (be they reconfigurations, mergers or other collaborations) in lessening competition for example, should not, in our view, prevent approval for reasonable proposals to ensure future financial and clinical sustainability.”

He added that the assessment processes from Monitor, the OFT and Competition Commission “should not require providers to incur unreasonable cost or be excessively lengthy.”

A decision from the Competition Commission on the merger of Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals and Poole Hospital is due on 21 October.

The two-day Foundation Trust Network annual conference starts in Liverpool tomorrow.

Related files/tables