STRUCTURE: Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust and Medway NHS Foundation Trust have announced they are exploring the possibility of coming together to form one organisation.

The two trusts, which run Darent Valley and Medway Maritime hospitals, said in a statement dated 18 July that “senior clinicians believe that there could be significant clinical benefits in bringing the trusts together”. 

“The local population is growing and has increasingly complex healthcare needs. We need to find ways to continue improving local hospital services and do more within our constrained budgets,” the statement said.

It said a merger would allow the range of specialist services offered locally to be expanded and that, by merging the boards and some support functions, the trusts could cut out duplication and release savings that could be reinvested.

“The purpose of coming together is to build on the range and quality of local services we already have, not to reduce them. We are not proposing any significant changes to the services we provide,” it stated. 

“Both hospitals will continue to offer core services to their local populations and full A&E, maternity, children’s and outpatients services will be accessible on both sites,” it added.

The press statement follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two in April, which was recorded in board papers.

The trusts said they were currently engaged in “detailed background work to check that integrating the two trusts is practical and will deliver the anticipated benefits for patients and the public”.

This work is expected to be complete by September. If the outcome is positive, “official steps” to bring the trusts together will be taken with the aim of completing the merger by next April.

The decision will need to be approved by the Department of Health, NHS South East Coast and Monitor.