STRUCTURE: The trust aims to have found a foundation trust to take it over by October this year, and to dissolve by October 2012, latest board papers show.

The trust’s merger and acquisition update states: “In line with the trust board’s preference to identify a suitable partner at the earliest opportunity, we have agreed an accelerated option appraisal process with the strategic health authority which engages, assesses and selects a preferred partner in a fully transparent and inclusive way involving key stakeholders and our commissioner NHS Cumbria.”

It adds: “To date the trust has identified a number of neighbouring foundation trusts which may respond positively to an invitation to partner with our trust. Informal discussions have taken place and are ongoing with all interested parties to ensure they are aware of the board decision and the current development of the merger and acquisitions process which is being agreed with the SHA.”

The minutes of a North Cumbria board meeting held on 8 March state that the trust had had initial discussions on the planned merger and acquisition with “three geographically located trusts, e.g. Morecambe Bay, Northumbria and Newcastle”.