Two NHS trusts in the Midlands are working on proposals to work closer together, including a potential full merger, HSJ understands.

Derby Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust and Burton Hospitals FT are preparing an outline business case for proposals on collaboration, which is expected to be presented to both trusts’ boards in May.

It is understood the business case will consider several options including a full merger to create a single provider trust.

The two organisations have longstanding links with significant patient flows between their sites, which are only 11 miles apart and connected by major A roads.

HSJ understands a closer link between the trusts would mean strengthened local services for Burton, which is struggling to recruit staff and maintain key clinical services such as accident and emergency. Networking with Derby and staff potentially moving between the two sites would allow local services to be maintained.

Derby could use new links to create capacity and expand its current catchment area for specialist acute care.

Both trusts have made public commitments that Burton’s Queen’s Hospital A&E will not be closed.

A joint statement from the trusts said: “Our two trusts are now looking at the proposals in more detail, and will produce an outline business case which will be reviewed by both trust boards in May 2017. If this is agreed a full business case will then be developed for consideration in the autumn, with engagement and input from staff, governors, stakeholders, patients and the public.

“We have a long history of joint working and last September we signalled our clear intent to work more closely together and signed a memorandum of understanding to that effect.

“Since then, we have worked closely with clinicians from both trusts to shape potential options for improving the quality and consistency of the services offered to local people. We believe that by working together, we can offer better outcomes to our local populations and bring the best that each trust has to offer to all our patients.”