• Aintree University Hospital FT and Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospitals Trust have been in talks for three years
  • Trusts to form joint board in 2018 and aim to merge in 2019
  • Keeping separate trusts would mean a “huge academic opportunity being missed”, says report

The two acute trusts in Liverpool will appoint an interim joint board by the middle of next year, and aim to formally merge by April 2019.

Merger talks between Aintree University Hospital Foundation Trust and Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospitals Trust have been ongoing for the last three years.

The providers have now completed an outline business case. This has not been published but a summary of the document has been released.

It said: “It is proposed that an application is made to the Competition and Markets Authority for a stage one review, which is the shorter process possible. AUHFT and RLBUHT aim to achieve an authorisation date for the newly merged organisation on 1 April 2019.

“This depends on the regulatory approval process both by NHS Improvement and the CMA, so could change.”

A process to appoint an interim board between the organisations will start early in 2018 and be completed by the summer.

The report says the merger will help address the trusts’ financial challenges, as well as deliver improvements to multiple services which are currently replicated at both trusts; including orthopaedics; emergency general surgery; hepato-biliary surgery; oesophago-gastric surgery; and stroke care.

It says Aintree has a recurrent structural deficit of £14.6m, while Royal Liverpool’s underlying deficit is around £25m.

Details of the expected financial savings are not included, but a McKinsey report in 2014 estimated that savings of up to 14 per cent on their combined turnover of almost £900m could potentially be delivered.

The document also said retaining separate trusts would also mean a “huge academic opportunity being missed”, as neither Aintree nor Royal Liverpool fulfils its research potential.

A new bio-campus is being developed on an adjacent site to the new Royal Liverpool Hospital, which is also in development, and health leaders view this as a major opportunity to attract more research funding to the city.

There was a significant setback on this agenda last year, when a £15m funding bid to the National Institute of Health Research was unsuccessful.