COMMERCIAL: Monitor has launched a competition investigation into a proposed pathology merger in the North West.

The regulator will review a planned merger of services between Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Trust and St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals Trust.

In the first stage of the review it will look at whether the merger is likely to result in a negative impact on patients and taxpayers through a reduction of competition and choice.

If this is the case, the review will enter a second stage to assess whether the potential benefits from the merger outweigh the loss of choice and competition.

However because the merger involves only NHS trusts rather than foundation trusts, Monitor’s role is purely advisory, with the final merger decision left to the trusts involved and the NHS Trust Development Authority.

Under a partnership agreement between the two organisations, Monitor advises the TDA on the choice and competition aspects of mergers only concerning NHS trusts.

Monitor completed its first such review in March by concluding a pathology merger in Sussex was unlikely to lead to a loss of competition or to negatively impact patients.

The findings of the first stage of Monitor’s review are expected within 40 working days.