STRUCTURE: University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust has pulled out of the competition to take over a neighbouring trust, after Monitor declared it in “significant breach” of its authorisation.

The trust was one of three foundations due to present their takeover proposals for North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust to a meeting of staff and patients on Wednesday.

But the day before the meeting, Monitor announced it was to use its formal intervention powers to commission an independent governance review of Morecambe Bay, following a damning report on the foundation’s maternity services by the Care Quality Commission.

Morecambe Bay’s chief executive Tony Halsall said: “We took the decision yesterday to withdraw from the process to acquire North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust.

“We believe that it is in the best interest of our patients and staff that we continue to stay focussed on ensuring that the issues recently raised by the CQC and Monitor, particularly relating to maternity services, are addressed and that we continue to move forward with our plans to ensure that our maternity services are the safest that they can be.”

Monitor will also use its intervention powers to appoint a team of expert clinical advisors to review “underlying problems” in the foundation’s maternity services and their “interface with paediatrics”.

The regulator said yesterday that the CQC was now “satisfied that there have been initial improvements in the quality and safety of maternity services” at Morecambe Bay, after the foundation brought in a “high-level team of doctors, nurses and midwives to provide additional clinical support”.

But it added: “Having considered a wide range of evidence, Monitor’s board requires further assurance that patient care will remain safe in the long term.

“We are concerned that the trust board has not been taking a proactive approach to identifying and addressing problems quickly enough.”

UHMB’s withdrawal leaves just two bids for North Cumbria – Northumbria Healthcare FT, and a joint bid from Cumbria Partnership FT and Newcastle Upon Tyne FT.

North Cumbria interim chief executive Neil Goodwin said: “I fully understand the reasons for them withdrawing from the acquisition process. I am disappointed they are not able to continue but wish them all the best in successfully addressing the challenges they are currently facing.”