STRUCTURE: University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust and North Bristol Trust have set up a project board to consider whether the two organisations should merge to create an organisation with a turnover close to £1bn.

The project team will be chaired by Steve West, vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England, and will look at how the city’s hospitals will deliver the Bristol Health Services plan.

The plan involves reconfiguration of services across the two trusts to reduce duplication and improve outcomes for patients. For example breast and urology services will both pass from UHBFT to North Bristol during 2012, while in 2013-14 children’s services, paediatric burns and neurosciences will transfer from North Bristol to UHBFT.

In a statement released this afternoon, Professor West said this would also include recommending changes to the organisational and management structure, which could be to form a single organisation or work in an ever closer partnership.

A merger between the two organisations has been discussed before and senior figures have always said they would pursue it if it was the best option for services in the city. North Bristol had a turnover of around £520m in 2011-12 while UHBFT reported income of just under £400m.

If pursued the merger would make the Bristol hospitals one of the largest provider trusts in the country, of a similar size to Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Imperial College Healthcare, Guy’s and St Thomas’, and University College London Hospitals.

Professor West said: “This project is a critical next step in the trusts’ working partnership to ensure the delivery of quality healthcare for the residents of Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and further afield. 

“The strategy will ensure that both organisations are best placed to meet the future national and local demands on the NHS.”   

North Bristol Trust will continue with its foundation trust application as planned and hopes to be authorised by the end of the year.

Deputy chief executive of NHS South of England Andrea Young is directing the project team which also includes chairs and chief executives of both trusts as well as the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire primary care trust cluster and chair of the South Gloucestershire clinical commissioning group.

The strategy and recommendations will be presented to both trusts boards at their meetings at the end of July 2012.