The new Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust is to launch on 3 January following a merger of Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Foundation Trust and the former Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust.

The new trust will cover an area stretching King’s Lynn to Felixstowe and serve a population of some 1.5m people.

Chief executive Aidan Thomas said: “The merger of our two trusts gives us real opportunities to develop new services which we would not have been able to do if we had remained as two trusts. For example, we are looking at developing inpatient services for under-18s who currently have to travel out of the county for mental health hospital care. Our larger size means we could provide that service closer to young people’s families.

“Both counties have examples of excellent service, which we can extend to the other. All round, this is good news for our clinical services and the people who use them.”

The merger was first proposed almost two years ago. Since that time, staff in the two trusts have been working together on the application, gaining approval from staff, GPs and MPs in both counties, primary care trusts, the strategic health authority and - finally - the independent NHS Foundation Trust regulator Monitor and the Secretary of State for Health.