STRUCTURE: Southern Health Foundation Trust is to merge with the Ridgeway Partnership, it has been announced today.

The trust beat competition from two other shortlisted trusts: Calderstones Partnership Trust in the North West, and Hertfordshire Partnership Trust.

The two trusts will work on the merger over the coming months, and plan to be operating as a single entity by autumn 2012.

Andrew Hall, chief executive of Ridgeway Partnership, which is also known as Oxfordshire Learning Disability Partnership, said: “We are looking forward to working with Southern Health to move to the next phase of integrating our services.

“It is an exciting time for both trusts to come together and really push the boundaries of person-centred services that are high quality and cost effective for people with learning disabilities.

“I would like to thank everyone involved for their commitment and enthusiasm in the process so far, including the people who use our services, their families and carers, our staff, commissioners and our partner organisations.”

Katrina Percy, chief executive of Southern Health, said: “I am delighted that we have been chosen as the preferred bidder.

“Over the past six months, we have met with service users, staff, carers and learning disability support organisations, and we have been so impressed with OLDT’s commitment and energy in developing services which are truly focused on people with learning disabilities to support their health and social care needs.

“This is precisely what Southern Health believes in and stands for – my board and senior teams cannot wait to start work on bringing these important learning disability and social care services together for the benefits of service users.”

Southern Health employs around 8,000 staff and the Ridgeway around 1,200 staff.