• Essex mental health trusts plan huge shake-up if merger goes ahead
  • First year would focus on governance changes and back office cuts
  • Trusts hope new clinical model could be in place in April 2018

Two Essex mental health trusts set to merge in April are planning a “significant” service reconfiguration, a report by the trusts revealed.

South Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust and North Essex Partnership Trust said a public consultation on major reconfiguration would begin in October, if the merger is completed in the coming weeks as widely expected.

The trusts are set to merge into a new entity called Essex Partnership University FT on 1 April following regulators’ approval and final board sign off. North Essex Partnership Trust will be dissolved on 31 March.

The paper, discussed at the Essex county council health overview and scrutiny committee’s February meeting, said: “We anticipate that there will be significant service changes – both in the way a service is delivered and, in some cases, from where it is delivered.”

It does not give details of those changes but it said a formal public consultation would take place between October and March 2018, if the merger is approved, ahead of a new service model going live in April next year.

HSJ revealed the merger plans in 2015 were being driven by fears that the two trusts were unsustainable, and amid concerns commissioners were considering substantial service cuts.

The trusts told the council there would be no significant service changes in the first year after the merger, with the new trust set to focus first on cutting its corporate costs and changing its structure.

The paper added: “The first year changes are in corporate services – creating a single board, ensuring that corporate support services such as IT and estates are working together as a single team, reducing our overall corporate costs by approximately 15 per cent.

“This allows a solid foundation for [the new trust] to work with commissioners and stakeholders to plan and deliver truly transformational clinical change from 2018-19 and beyond.”

A full business case for the merger was submitted to NHS Improvement in December. The regulator’s provider assessment committee is set to give an overall transaction a risk rating in the week ending 17 March.

The trust told HSJ it would not publish the plan submitted to the regulator but it would publish it if it is approved by NHSI and the merger gets the green light.