• Luton and Dunstable University Hospital Foundation Trust’s acquisition of Bedford Hospital Trust will not happen as planned on 1 April 2018
  • Discussions with NHS Improvement about national funding are ongoing
  • Trust has asked for around £150m capital among other financial asks
  • Senior leadership news at both trusts

The acquisition of a hospital trust by its high performing neighbour has been delayed by ongoing discussions about its bid for national funding.

Luton and Dunstable University Hospital Foundation Trust stated its intention last year to acquire Bedford Hospital Trust by 1 April this year.

However, the foundation trust has said it will not be able to meet this deadline as financial agreements with NHS Improvement are “not yet in place”.

The hospital is seeking considerable outside capital financial support – £106m for its site and approximately £44m for Bedford. NHS Improvement has told the trust it cannot confirm any capital allocation until summer 2018.

An update issued by the trust on Friday said: “Discussions have been ongoing with NHSI about the revenue and capital requirements that will underpin our ability to realise the benefits of the merger proposal. We had hoped by this point to have finalised our discussions with NHSI to enable us to merge the organisations on 1 April 2018.

“However, we are currently not in a position to enable this to happen as the financial agreements that will ensure the new organisation has a strong foundation are not yet in place.

“We remain optimistic that any outstanding matters can be resolved but we now know that we won’t have confirmation of the availability of capital until the next round of national funding is announced in summer 2018.”

A new target date for completing the acquisition has not been given.

Luton and Dunstable has requested the capital to rebuild the majority of its acute services block and deal with backlog maintenance.

It is also in discussions with NHS Improvement about the financial control total for the new organisation, and the handling of short term loans to Bedford in recent years. Luton and Dunstable has also asked for £6m to cover transition costs.

The organisation has previously said the combined trust could deliver a surplus of £9.9m by 2023. It believes not merging would cost the NHS £45m-£55m in coming years.

Luton and Dunstable trust said: “We always recognised that it was an ambitious timeline to deliver the merger by 1 April.”

It said its merger plans “will continue” despite the delay and in June it will review the “progress of ongoing conversations with NHSI”.

The name of the combined organisation is expected to be Bedfordshire Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Meanwhile, both trusts are undergoing leadership change.

Bedford’s chief executive Stephen Conroy has said he will leave once the acquisition is complete.

Luton and Dunstable has appointed David Carter as chief executive on a permanent basis. He had been serving as interim chief since predecessor Pauline Philip joined NHS England and NHS Improvement as urgent and emergency care director last summer.