STRUCTURE: Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust has had its bid to run a neighbouring provider halted, after national leaders decided any newly combined body would not be sustainable, it has been announced.

The NHS Trust Development Authority said the acute provider’s business case to take over Weston Area Health Trust was not financially or clinically viable.

The regulator said it has ended the “transaction” between Weston Area Health and Taunton and Somerset FT.

Last October Taunton and Somerset became the only provider to bid to run the troubled Weston-super-Mare-based hospital.

NHS England said that it continued to see the hospital as “an important part of the local NHS”.

Weston Area Health is now examining the possibility of sharing consultant appointments with acute trusts in Bristol and Taunton.

The trust’s board announced in 2011 that the £100m turnover hospital was not viable in its current form.

Following a failed attempt to create an integrated care organisation with other providers in north Somerset, the trust announced plans to seek an NHS partner or an independent sector franchise arrangement.

However, this was abandoned in June 2014 due to concern a franchise arrangement would not address longstanding issues with consultant recruitment. Instead the trust sought bids from NHS trusts within a 50-mile radius.

Earlier this week NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said that he believed organisational mergers and the foundation trust pipeline were distractions to progress, and should be set aside.

Ms Stevens said: “I find too many parts of the country where deep seated problems are stalemated in flawed so-called ‘acquisition processes’ that drag on for years, cost oodles in management consultancy spend and deliver slightly less than diddly squat.”

A spokeswoman for Taunton and Somerset said: “Our aim was to find a model for one joint organisation that delivered service alignment, clinical sustainability and value for money for the people of Somerset and North Somerset.

“However, we recognised when submitting the draft full business case to the TDA that, although it might have met the clinical needs of our populations, it was not possible to demonstrate long-term financial sustainability for the combined organisation.”

Weston Area Health chief executive James Rimmer said: “Nobody expected this to be the outcome when the process first began, but any acquisition of Weston had to always fundamentally be about what is best for our patients.

“After robust scrutiny of the business case, the TDA has concluded that an acquisition doesn’t “represent a clinically or financially viable organisation”. So if it’s not right for our patients, it’s not right for us.

Mr Rimmer added: “One of our biggest challenges remains around medical staffing. We’re adopting a new approach by establishing a ‘sustainability board’.

“Its purpose is to create opportunities to share specific consultant doctor appointments with our three surrounding acute hospital Trusts in Bristol and Taunton. It’s still early days but we hope we’ll be able to attract more doctors to add to our existing highly skilled medical workforce.”

The TDA’s director of delivery and development Anne Eden said:  “Following significant discussion and evaluation it is our considered view that, together, the two organisations would not represent a clinically or financially viable organisation, and as a result, an acquisition is not the right solution in this case.”