STRUCTURE: Heart of England Foundation Trust has pulled back from a mooted takeover of George Eliot Hospital Trust, HSJ has learnt.

The foundation, based on three sites across Birmingham and Solihull, has formally written to George Eliot, in Nuneaton, to say it will not be pursuing a merger or takeover.

The move narrows the options open to the struggling George Eliot, which has admitted it is unable to achieve foundation status on its own.

HEFT chief executive Mark Newbold told HSJ: “We’ve decided not to pursue George Eliot having looked at what our strategic priorities are.”

His trust’s two priorities are developing its “three hospital systems” - including an integrated care model in Solihull - and developing an academic health science programme with as-yet-undecided partners. This would allow it to focus on education, public health, health and wellbeing, research and improving patient outcomes, Dr Newbold said.

In addition, HEFT was “too far away [and] wouldn’t have had any clinical inflows [from George Eliot],” he said.

In October, Dr Newbold told HSJ his board had started to discuss a takeover but wanted Monitor to agree to excluding George Eliot’s performance from compliance ratings for a set period.

Speaking to HSJ this morning, Dr Newbold said: “If we’d decided to go ahead we would have had these issues. I’m sure Monitor would have been willing to discuss it.”

The news may be welcomed by South Warwickshire Foundation Trust, which has expressed an interest in taking over George Eliot.

Last month, HSJ reported that NHS Midlands and East had not ruled out turning George Eliot into a private franchise in a similar arrangement to Circle’s takeover of Hinchingbrooke Hospital Trust.