• Royal Wolverhampton to join alliance created by Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust, Walsall Healthcare Trust and Dudley Group FT
  • Alliance renamed the Black Country Provider Partnership
  • Four trusts set to approve full business case to merge pathology services

A major alliance of acute providers in the West Midlands is being expanded to include a fourth trust, HSJ has learned.

The Royal Wolverhampton Trust is set to partner with Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust, Walsall Healthcare Trust and Dudley Group Foundation Trust, which comprise the £1bn turnover Black Country Alliance.

Clinical research

The trusts could save £6.7m a year by consolidating their pathology services

The news comes as the four trusts are set to approve a full business case for the merger of their pathology services by June 2019.

The alliance was established in 2015. Royal Wolverhampton was the only acute trust within the Black Country sustainability and transformation partnership not to join at the time.

However, the trusts have now confirmed Royal Wolverhampton will join the collaboration and as a result the alliance will be renamed the Black Country Provider Partnership.

The trusts also plans to consolidate their pathology services. A summary of the full business case has been published, setting a target date to go live by June 2019.

According to the document, published last week, the trusts stand to save a combined £6.7m a year by consolidating their pathology services into a “hub” at Wolverhampton with three smaller essential services labs at the other trusts.

The document adds that discussions will be held with Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust about integrating its pathology services.

This follows NHS Improvement proposing a pathology network between Royal Wolverhampton, Walsall Healthcare, Dudley Group, Sandwell and West Birmingham, and Shrewsbury and Telford.

According to the regulator, savings of £5.2m a year could be created through this network.

A spokeswoman from Sandwell and West Birmingham said: “The Black Country Alliance was initially formed with three trusts…

“Many of our joint projects have naturally included work with the Royal Wolverhampton Trust and as a result we are developing the Black Country Alliance into new collaboration with all four trusts, called the Black Country Provider Partnership.

“The projects that we have successfully been delivering within the alliance will continue to progress and we will expect to see even more programmes of collaboration in the future.”