• Acute trust merging with community and mental health services trust in Somerset
  • Merger pushed back until next year amid creation of clinical model
  • New organisation would be among first of its kind in England

Health chiefs have pushed back a merger which would create one of England’s first acute, mental health and community services trusts.

Last year Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust and Somerset Partnership FT revealed plans to merge, and the two organisations later set a target to do so by the end of this month.

However, this week the trusts confirmed to HSJ that the merger has been delayed to the “first few months of 2020”.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of both trusts, said the clinical teams had “ambitious ideas” for how to integrate care in the new organisation, and – given the “very tight timeline, we looked again at the timings for our merger and adjusted them while continuing to develop our plans for integration”.

The organisations have been working on a new clinical model, which will aim to integrate care across the acute, community and mental health sectors.

The clinical model “forms the bedrock” of the trusts’ full business case for the merger, which they expect to submit to NHS Improvement this month. Once NHSI completes their review, the trusts’ boards and councils of governors will “formally consider the transaction,” Mr Lewis said. 

Plans to integrate services began in 2017 when the trusts agreed a formal alliance with a joint leadership team.

Mr Lewis said the benefits of integration have already been felt between the children and adolescent mental health service and the acute paediatric ward, while progress has also been made on providing a better experience for mental health patients presenting at Taunton and Somerset FT’s emergency department.

Patient flow between acute and community services is also better, he added.

“However…it is also clear that it is necessary to merge our two trusts in order to integrate community, mental health and hospital services and remove the barriers that add unnecessary delay and cost to the care we provide,” Mr Lewis said.

He said the trusts have given a “commitment” that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the merger – marking a change of stance from last year.

A Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme has been set up for staff, but it is not yet possible to say how many people would apply and be eligible, Mr Lewis said.

“Some roles will change but managers are working with any colleagues who are affected to find a solution that works for them and our services,” he added.

If the trusts complete the merger, the new organisation will be named Somerset Foundation Trust. The trusts’ combined income for 2018-19 was £496m.

No NHS trusts so far provide a broad range of services spanning acute, community and mental health. Acute and mental health trusts are planning to combine in North Cumbria, although mental health will largely be transferred to other providers; the small Isle of Wight Trust, which is in special measures, provides some mental health services on the island; and mental health and acute trusts in north east London are moving to a shared chief executive.


HSJ Transforming Mental Health Summit

The HSJ Transforming Mental Health Summit, taking place at the Hilton Leeds from 28-29 November 2019, unites 120+ senior figures from across the NHS, local authority and wider mental health service delivery landscape to discuss how to realise the visions of the NHS long-term plan and ensure successful local implementation of national priorities.

Held under the Chatham House Rule, attendees will quiz Paul Farmer and other national figures on general policy direction and co-develop solutions to their local challenges with NHS and local government colleagues from across the country. The summit is free to attend for senior NHS and public sector figures.

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