• QVH could join Western Sussex and BSUH in group
  • Unclear what this will mean for chair and chief executive
  • Specialist trust facing significant financial problems

One of England’s smallest trusts is looking at joining a hospital group with its neighbours.

Queen Victoria Hospital Foundation Trust said in a statement it is to work with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust and Western Sussex Hospitals FT to assess the “potential benefits, opportunities and risks” of greater collaboration on a “hospital group” basis.

BSUH and Western Sussex — which already share a chair and chief executive — have agreed to work within a group structure with a single executive team from this April. However, the two trusts will remain separate organisations with their own assets.

QVH, which has a turnover of just £70m, already works closely with both trusts and is increasingly making joint appointments with BSUH in some clinical specialties.

It is unclear whether QVH could — or would — retain its own executive team and chair if it joined the group but sharing some executive roles could offer it savings. The specialist trust recently predicted it would have significant deficits for the next four years and would need “support” to breakeven in 2023-24. It has been operating without an agreed control total for this financial year.

Steve Jenkin, QVH chief executive, described exploring greater collaboration as “the next step in an evolving process which we believe could help us to do even better for our patients and our staff.

“QVH has a unique portfolio of services. We are the second smallest trust in the country but in our areas of specialist expertise we are a major player. We carry out more breast reconstructions than anywhere else in England; we are the fourth largest head and neck cancer and orthognathic (corrective jaw surgery) centre in the UK, the largest prosthetic centre in Europe, the most innovative ophthalmology department and the only sleep centre in the region.”

Dame Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of Western Sussex and BSUH, said: “We know that working together enables us to provide the highest quality services for patients and are always looking for ways to work more closely with partners to continue to improve the services we offer.

“It’s now important that we look carefully together at the opportunities and challenges associated with strengthening this collaboration in future.”

East Grinstead-based QVH developed as a burns and plastics surgical centre after the Second World War, when it treated many pilots who suffered disfiguring burns. It now provides specialist services for a wide area, as well as having a minor injuries unit. 

However, the lack of some 24/7 diagnostic services and other colocated specialties has made it more challenging for it to ensure patients, especially those with other medical conditions, can access round-the-clock care and expert opinion.

At the start of the last decade, it was considering a merger with Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT in south London.