Waiting times have risen and financial performance has declined at NHS hospitals following mergers, a study has found.

Research by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation at Bristol University looked at finance, productivity, waiting times and quality and said there was “little evidence that mergers achieved gains other than a reduction in activity”.

It said: “Post merger, financial performance declines, labour productivity does not change, waiting times for patients rise and there is no indication of an increase in clinical quality.”

The study looked at the period from 1997 to 2006 and said during that time roughly half of general hospitals in England were involved in a merger.

The research also examined political influence on hospital mergers.

The paper, released yesterday, said: “Closures are more likely to be carried out in areas which are not politically marginal”.

The news comes after a large swathe of hospital trust merger bids have been announced (see list below).

Two trusts merged since 2006 – Imperial and South London – are predicting a combined year-end deficit of more than £100m for 2011-12.

Current merger proposals:

  • Royal Bournemouth and Poole Hospitals
  • North West London Hospitals and Ealing Hospital
  • Barts, Whipps Cross and Newham prposed merger
  • York Hospital and the Scarbrough and North East Yorkshire Trust
  • North Cumbria University Hospitals merger with either Newcastle or Northumbria hospital trusts
  • The division of Epsom and St Helier Hospitals trust between St George’s and Ashford and St Peter’s Foundation Trust
  • Trafford and Central Manchester Foundation Trust
  • Basingstoke & North Hampshire and Winchester & Eastleigh hospital trusts have recently completed their merger
  • George Eliot Hospital trust has indicated it is looking for a merger partner
  • A feasibility study is examining the possibility of merging Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and the South London and Maudsley Mental Health Foundation Trust.
  • Chase Farm and North Middlesex University Hospitals
  • A study has been conducted of the potential for sharing services between £149m-turnover West Middlesex University Hospital and £900m-turnover Imperial College Hospital Trust
  • A merger is being considered for financially-troubled Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust
  • Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital and the Oxford Radcliffe recently had their merger approved by the Co-operation and Competition Panel