• Merger plan for three West Midlands trusts dropped
  • Decision comes following clinical and financial concerns about the merger 
  • The move also follows national planning guidance which said new care models would need to be “appropriate to their geographical footprints”
  • Merger cancellation may affect procurement of ACO contract by commissioners in the Black Country

A merger of three trusts has been dropped because it would have created a trust spanning two sustainability and transformation partnership areas, along with concerns over clinical and financial viability, HSJ can reveal.

Birmingham Community Healthcare Foundation Trust, Black Country Partnership FT and Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership Trust have decided not to continue with plans to merge the three organisations.

In a statement to HSJ the trusts said their decision not to proceed was taken due to clinical concerns about the integration of services, the fact that the “financial plan” for the new organisation would not meet “transaction requirements”, and because the new organisation would have operated across two different health economies.

“Recent NHS planning guidance for 2018-19 has highlighted the strengthening role of sustainability and transformation partnerships in developing models of care appropriate to their geographical footprints, and the proposal would have operated across two (namely Birmingham & Solihull and the Black Country)”, the statement added.

However, BCPT and DWMHP said they would continue developing plans for a “Black Country-wide” approach to mental health and learning disability services.

The news comes during the procurement of an accountable care organisation contract in Dudley, for which the three trusts, along with Dudley Group FT and a consortium of GPs, were named preferred providers in August 2017.

One senior source told HSJ it is “not yet clear” how the merger cancellation will affect the ACO procurement and that the trusts’ “relationship” with the ACO would need to be worked through.

Under the Transforming Care Together programme, the three trusts announced in July last year that they intended to merge by October 2017.

But in December HSJ reported that NHS Improvement had put the merger on “pause” in order to give the providers more time to work on their business case.

This followed the departure of Tracy Taylor in October. She was chief executive of the Birmingham trust and of BCPT.

Richard Kirby, former chief executive of Walsall Healthcare Trust, replaced Ms Taylor as chief executive of Birmingham Community Healthcare last month.

A spokesman for the three trusts said: “The boards are very much aware and extremely appreciative of the considerable work that staff have put into [the merger project] and are determined to learn as much as possible from the process and continue to share good practice.

“In reviewing the benefits identified through considerable hard work in developing the Transforming Care Together proposal, the boards feel it is clear that the clinical case identified from working collaboratively on the benefits of a Black Country-wide approach to mental health and learning disability services should continue to be developed further, by the two Black Country Trusts working closely with commissioners and the STP.”