• Luton and Dunstable Hospital FT’s acquisition of Bedford Hospital Trust moves step closer after capital funding confirmed
  • £99.5m of government funding will allow trust to build new five-storey acute services block
  • Redevelopment will see maternity services upgraded

A merger to create a £600m turnover trust is back on the cards after last weeks’ government capital funding announcement. 

Health bosses at Luton and Dunstable Hospital Foundation Trust and Bedford Hospital Trust say plans to combine the two organisations into a single trust can finally progress, after they were awarded £99.5m from the Department of Health and Social Care last week.

Luton announced plans to acquire BHT in September 2017 with a view to officially merge by April 2018. However, this was delayed to April 2019 as financial agreements with NHS Improvement had not been agreed. Plans then faced another setback in December last year after Luton’s capital bid was unsuccessful.

However plans have now moved a step forward after LDHFT was one of 20 trusts awarded a portion of funding from government for capital investment projects last week.

A spokeswoman for the trust confirmed the funding will allow both trusts to “reinvigorate the joint planning work for the merger to proceed”, however a final deadline is yet to be set.

She added: “We will continue to engage with staff and stakeholders to develop these plans and ensure we provide up to date information as and when available.” 

Deputy chief executive of LDHFT, Cathy Jones, says the funding will enable the trust to “proceed at pace” with plans to build a new five-storey acute services block at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital. This will allow the trust to upgrade existing maternity and neonatal intensive care services as well as expand accident and emergency and theatre facilities.

She said: “[The new block] will make a real difference to patient and staff experience by delivering new facilities for critical care, maternity services, the level 3 neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) and operating theatres.

“Importantly, we now have the funding in place to realise the benefits of the planned merger between Bedford Hospital and the Luton and Dunstable and are able to plan for long-term investment on both sites.”

Chief executive of Bedford Hospital Trust, Stephen Conroy, added: “This is wonderful news for patients and staff in Bedfordshire and Luton and allows for planning for the merger of the two hospitals to progress including the implementation of Bedford Hospital’s three year plan.

“This much-needed investment in the local area is welcomed by both trusts and supports our ambition to continue to provide the best possible care to our diverse communities at a time of rapid housing and population growth and increasing demand for health services.”