STRUCTURE: Two provider trusts are forming links with the proposed Royal Free London Foundation Trust hospital chain, HSJ has learned.

North Middlesex University Hospital Trust has applied to join what it describes as the “Royal Free London group”, while West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust is in talks to “buddy” with Royal Free.

Royal Free is one of three trusts in England working to create a chain of full-service hospitals, along with Salford Royal and Northumbria Healthcare foundation trusts.

Minutes of North Middlesex’s May board meeting said: “It had been recognised that the long term financial model for NMUH based on its current portfolio of services was not sustainable and unlikely to be viable as a foundation trust.

”The alternative of remaining as an NHS trust was also unsustainable in the longer term. NMUH had been offered the opportunity to join the RFL group as a founder member.” It has submitted a formal request to join.

An earlier North Mid board paper says: “The Royal Free London has proposed the creation of a hospital group encompassing hospitals in North Central London and within Hertfordshire.

“The group brings together the advantages of economies of scale for support services and also access to larger clinical teams who are able to sub-specialise and offer the best outcomes for patients. The RFL group is part of one of the new models of care ‘vanguards’ sponsored by the NHS nationally. At the moment it is undergoing an accreditation process to allow it to establish a group.

”The NMUH has the opportunity to join this group as a founder member.”

A partnership board is due to meet next week and, subject to due diligence, North Middlesex could be a full member by April next year.

The Royal Free acquired Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals Trust in July 2014 and its chief executive David Sloman is leading the sustainability and transformation plan for north central London. It is expected to receive substantial national vanguard funding in 2016-17.

Meanwhile, the chair of West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust has been in discussions to form a “buddying” agreement with Royal Free.

Board minutes said Steven Barnett had “continued discussions with the Royal Free on buddying arrangements”.