POOLE and Royal Bournemouth Hospitals have been told to look again at the possibility of a merger.

The move comes after a recent top-level meeting with the bosses of NHS England, NHS Improvement and Public Health England over the clinical services review, led by Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group.

The first merger attempt was blocked by the Competition Commission in 2013.

A joint statement from Debbie Fleming and Tony Spotswood said: "On Friday July 15, senior representatives of the Dorset health and social care system met with senior leaders of NHS England, NHS Improvement and Public Health England to review the Dorset Sustainability and Transformation Plan.

"This plan, that had been submitted at the end of June, incorporates the work of the Dorset Clinical Services Review, led by the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

"During the course of this meeting, it was agreed that it would be appropriate for our two foundation trusts to reconsider the question of merger, given the very clear commissioning intentions of the CCG, that will require new organisational forms.

"This meeting only took place last week, and it is still very early days.

"However, in order to maintain a transparent and open approach, we have sent out a message to all our staff, to let them know that this conversation took place.

"It is the shared view of the senior management of the two trusts that operating the new models of care - that is, separating emergency and planned care services in the east – would be extremely difficult as two separate organisations.

"In our view, the merger would definitely assist in the smooth implementation of the Dorset Clinical Services Review, which is of course still subject to consultation.

"Both Trusts are aware that there is a lot of work to be done before any changes could take place locally.

"Most importantly, this includes gaining the support of the relevant regulatory authorities for moving ahead in this way.

"Whatever the outcome of these discussions, we are confident that in working more closely together, we can continue to provide high quality, safe and affordable care to patients in Dorset now and in the future."