A proposal to merge two South West trusts, creating an organisation with a turnover of almost £1bn, appears less likely to proceed after one of the organisations confirmed it was still working on an alternative plan to go it alone.

North Bristol Trust and University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust announced in July that they had agreed to work towards a merger following a joint review of acute services in the city.

The review concluded a single organisation would help Bristol fulfil its academic potential as a major research and teaching centre.

It also said it would provide opportunities for workforce efficiencies and make it easier to implement planned service reconfigurations.

North Bristol first submitted its foundation trust application to the Department of Health in April. It was asked to resubmit the application to the DH’s

technical committee in September but made the decision to concentrate on the merger instead.

However, the trust has now begun talks with NHS South of England and the NHS Trust Development Authority about agreeing a new tripartite formal agreement setting out a timeline for a single application.

Its earlier agreement highlighted issues of sustainability in the Bristol health economy and liquidity due to repayments on a historic loan as the most important issues affecting the trust’s application.

The situation in the area has also been complicated by the need to find a merger partner for Weston Area Health Trust, which recently announced it would not be continuing with its plan to become a standalone integrated care organisation.

HSJ understands the merger plans were unpopular with many at North Bristol, particularly clinicians.

North Bristol declined to confirm its favoured organisation form. Its chief executive Marie-Noelle Orzel said the trust was “on track” to become a foundation trust by 2014 either as a single organisation or in a merger with University Hospitals Bristol.

“In terms of the integrated new foundation trust application, we are currently on track with due diligence and an outline business case is planned to go before both trust boards in spring 2013,” she said. “North Bristol Trust is also progressing its own single foundation trust application and is working with the NHS Trust Development Authority on our new timeline.”