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Hospital trusts merger inquiry welcomed
AN MP has welcomed news that the proposed merger of Bournemouth and Poole’s Hospital Trusts has been referred to the Competition Commission.
Christchurch MP Chris Chope has repeatedly called for a full inquiry into the merger of the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals and Poole Hospital Trust, accusing managers of keeping the public in the dark over their plans to reconfigure services.
Concerns over a lack of information from hospital chiefs as well as the potential effects on local services led to Mr Chope calling for more transparency and consultation with the public.
These calls were repeated when a request for a document setting out the benefits of the merger, resulted in the MP receiving a heavily redacted version.
The Office of Fair Trading announced the in-depth investigation on Tuesday.
Speaking yesterday Mr Chope said: “I am very pleased.
“I am not sure anybody was expecting it but it is very welcome.
“What we need is a proper inquiry and I hope that the least we will be able to get is some more facts on the table.
“I have been calling for a while to try and get the information made public and I hope that is now more forthcoming.
“I hope the Competition Commission will be able to have a full inquiry and scrutinise the plans properly.
“All that redacted nonsense obviously is very material and that may have influenced them in their decision.”
Last week, councillors at Christchurch Borough Council refused to approve plans for a health hub on the site, which would have seen a new care home, assisted living and key worker housing built, while maintaining existing services such as the Macmillan Unit and blood service.
The hospital responded saying they were “deeply disappointed” by the decision and said they would have to review what services could now be delivered from Christchurch and Royal Bournemouth.
Mr Chope added: “I had already been threatened by the hospital that if this merger did not go through that Christchurch Hospital is going to close.
“Now, their response following the committee last week is obviously going to increase the concerns.”
Hospital bosses claims the merger could help them make significant savings, and in particular reduce bureaucracy and administrative costs.
The move has been agreed in principle by the hospital boards and has been through a period of public consultation.
Office of Fair Trading decision
The OFT said they could not dismiss concerns that in several medical specialities – notably rheumatology, rehabilitation, general medicine, general surgery, geriatric medicine, dermatology, clinical haematology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, cardiology and palliative medicine – the merger might reduce the hospitals’ incentives to continue to enhance the quality of those services.
The two hospital trusts are the first in the UK to propose a merger.
Tony Spotswood, proposed chief executive of the merged organisation said he was pleased the Office of Fair Trading had taken the “predicted” step of referral.
He said they looked forward to working with the Competition Commission over the coming months.