The NHS has entered the world of competitive trust takeovers. In the first process of its kind, NHS East of England has invited bids to takeover Bedfordshire and Luton Mental Health and Social Care Partnership trust, after its chair and non-executive directors resigned in February. This act of governance harakiri was prompted by the realisation it was never going to win foundation status.
A big concern about what to do with the rump of trusts that will never be anointed by foundation trust regulator Monitor has been that FTs would not want to jeopardise their own stability by taking over a weak organisation.
Yet the strategic health authority has had 22 expressions of interest for Bedfordshire and Luton, from as far afield as the North West and South West.
Given this is the first opportunity for predators to get a feel for how the takeover process will work, there must be a suspicion some are more interested in learning the ropes ahead of more serious bids for other trusts than in taking over this one.
Every trust has an interest in how this plays out. While potential bidders for the 20 or so organisations that may not make FT status will be anxious to see how the Department of Health helps them manage the risks, others that do not have expansionist ambitions will want to be reassured they will not be facing competition from trusts feather-bedded by the DH for helping ministers solve the problem of unviable hospitals.