• Redundancies possible at two trusts in Somerset
  • Acute trust and community and mental health trust aim to merge by October 2019
  • Chiefs hope to save £50m over five years from merger

Two trusts have said they cannot rule out redundancies ahead of a merger which aims to deliver savings up to £50m over five years and more joined up patient care.

Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust and Somerset Partnership FT are aiming to complete their merger by the end of September next year, after announcing the plans last spring.

While redundancies are not anticipated, it “cannot be ruled out in individual circumstances” – said a spokeswoman for the two trusts.

Some roles will change and the trusts hope natural staff turnover will also reduce the need for redundancies.

No staff will be moved from their jobs without a full consultation, the spokeswoman told HSJ.

“We believe there will be improved career development opportunities across a range of combined services,” she said.

If completed by the October target, the merger – which will cost £4.1m and be paid for by both trusts – will create one of mainland England’s first acute, community, and mental health providers. The trusts already share Peter Lewis as chief executive

Plans for the merger have come in response to the “extreme difficulties” for both trusts in finding further savings without changing the way healthcare is provided. Taunton and Somerset FT recorded a £3.5m deficit in 2017-18 while Somerset Partnership FT recorded a £6.9m surplus (including £2.9m of sustainability and transformation funds).

Without the merger, the prospect of the Somerset health system becoming financially sustainable is “very slim”, according to the strategic case document.

The trusts hope the merger will lead to savings worth up to £30m from clinical services over five years, and £20m from support services in the same timeframe.

Savings from clinical services will be made by “integrating and streamlining” patient pathways across acute, community, and mental healthcare.

This is expected to reduce the level of demand for inpatient services, which would otherwise rise – the spokeswoman said.

The savings from support services will be achieved by combining teams, making better use of the trusts’ estate, and using the increased bulk purchasing power of the new organisation.

Chiefs hope the merged organisation will benefit from no longer being “vulnerable to organisational silo working and protectionism”, the strategic case document said.

Alongside the merger plans, the Somerset health system wants to establish a number of urgent treatment centres to improve emergency care performance.

However, detailed plans have not yet been finalised, the spokeswoman said.