Hospital merger is jeopardised by private provider’s objections

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 10 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5550
  1. Deborah Cohen,
  2. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1BMJ

The new competition arrangements in the NHS in England are a “bonanza for lawyers and consultants” and could lead to scandals, the deputy chairman of the healthcare regulator Monitor has warned.

The statement from Stephen Thornton came ahead of a proposed merger of two NHS hospital trusts in the south of England that doctors fear may be derailed by competition law and by opposition from private providers. The final ruling is due next month.

The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Poole Hospital Foundation NHS Trust, which first proposed merging in 2011, said that the move was essential to ensure the sustainability of services in the area and would be of clinical and financial benefit.

But, despite support from local GPs and consultants, the move has been provisionally blocked by the Competition Commission on the grounds that it would reduce patients’ choice.

The merger proposal is thought to have cost millions of pounds in fees. “I wince at the money that should instead have been spent on patient care. We are heading for some scandals here,” Thornton said.

Local doctors are understood to be angry at the decision and at opposition from a …

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