STRUCTURE: Monitor will allow a mental health trust in the East of England to be taken over despite a Cooperation and Competition Panel ruling against the acquisition.

In a statement today, Monitor said the takeover of Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust by Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Foundation Trust would go ahead. But conditions placed on the deal mean services provided by the new provider organisation which are underperforming will be retendered.

In April the NHS Cooperation and Competition Panel ruled the deal should not go ahead as it would have an adverse effect on patient choice and competition in the local area.

Monitor is not mandatorily required to follow CCP recommendations and NHS East of England and the trusts have maintained the move is in the best interests of patients.

The statement said Monitor’s board had decided in a meeting today that the merger “would be in patients’ interests, especially in terms of quality and safety”.

But it said the risks identified by the CCP “should be addressed through a package of remedies agreed by Monitor’s board”

The statement said the remedies include “requirements around transparency and information publication” but will also mean the provider retendering “a proportion of services” as frequently as every two years.

Retendering will be linked to “specified quality thresholds”, set by commissioners. HSJ understands this will mean poor performance in Care Quality Commission inspections, poor feedback from patients or failure against other measures chosen by commissioners will trigger a tender.

It said: “Should the combined organisation lose such tenders, it will be required to provide access, at a fair price, to any facilities required by the successful tenderer for the delivery of services.”

Monitor chair David Bennett said: “We’ve made this decision based on evidence that there are pressing clinical quality and safety issues at Suffolk Mental Health Trust. The board therefore decided that it would be in patients’ interests if the acquisition were to go ahead so that these issues can be addressed quickly and effectively.

“However, in order to protect patients’ broader interests, Monitor will also require a range of remedies to be put in place. These remedies will seek to make sure pressures are maintained on the new, combined organisation to continue to improve the quality of care patients receive.”

Director of policy and strategy at NHS Midlands and East Stephen Dunn said: “We are pleased that Monitor has agreed that the Trusts can merge. Monitor has made the decision, following our advice, to put patients’ interests and safety and quality first.

“We and Monitor recognise the risks that the merger might limit patient choice and competition, which can drive up the quality of care over time. However these risks can be mitigated through the package of remedies which Monitor is proposing.

“We are pleased that Monitor has recognised the need for the merger to go-ahead. Providing high quality and safe services is our number one priority and this decision now paves the way for mental health care services in Suffolk to be improved and developed further for the benefit of existing and future patients”.