What’s happening about the possible merger?

Tuesday 6th April 2021

What’s happening about the possible merger?

As described in the leaflet Securing the long term future of Queen Victoria Hospital QVH faces some challenges related to our size.

We are the second smallest trust in the country and while we provide excellent care we need to look at how we can protect that and ensure the hospital is sustainable for the long term.

The Board of QVH has been clear that we will only merge with other hospitals if it helps us to:

  • further develop and invest in our services
  • maintain and build on our excellent record for patient experience, clinical outcomes and safety
  • continue to provide services to patients from the wide area we cover currently
  • continue to deliver world class research and innovation
  • secure the future of the hospital in East Grinstead providing services such as the minor injuries unit for local people

This does not mean that nothing at QVH will ever change. The leadership of Western Sussex Hospitals and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) have been clear that they have a huge amount of respect for QVH and the quality of care it provides to patients across the south east, and that if QVH does join them in a new organisation then its priorities and ambitions will be shaped by the expertise of QVH clinicians and their understanding of the needs of the communities they serve. Any future service change would also be subject to public consultation.

Are patients from Kent and Surrey going to lose out?
No. There has been some inaccurate reporting suggesting our services would be restricted to Sussex patients only. This is not true. By their very nature, specialist services across the country serve a wide area; that applies to QVH services and we want to ensure they continue to be available to patients from the wide area we cover currently.

What organisation is QVH considering merging with?
University Hospitals Sussex (UHSussex), formed on 1 April 2021 when Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust came together as a single organisation. There will be a great deal of detailed consideration before the board makes a decision on whether or not that is right for QVH, our patients, our services, our staff.

What is the strategic case and when can I see it?
Work related to the possible merger was largely paused during the pandemic and there have been considerable changes over the last 12 months including the formal establishment of UHSussex on 1 April, national developments around integrated care systems, and changed NHS priorities following Covid. Over the next few months we will be working with partners on developing the strategic case for possible merger, taking into consideration this changed context. We will seek to develop the strategic case with a range of stakeholders and expect the strategic case to be completed over the summer. When it is complete the boards of both organisations will look at the strategic case for merger and consider whether or not to move to a more detailed full business case.

For the board of QVH, this will include consideration of whether merger would help us to solve the problems we have identified around being a small organisation (click here to read the Securing the long term future of Queen Victoria Hospital booklet) while maintaining or improving the quality of our services.

The board of QVH will also look at whether merger would help us to further develop and invest in our services; maintain and build on our excellent record for patient experience, clinical outcomes and safety; continue to provide services to patients from the wide area we cover currently (including Kent and Surrey but we also treat patients who travel much further for our care); continue to deliver world class research and innovation; secure the future of the hospital in East Grinstead.

This is a very open and transparent process. The strategic case will be published on our website and members of the public will be welcome to observe the board meetings at which it will be considered. (Board meetings are currently held online due to the pandemic with a link sent to members of the public who ask to observe).

What happens after that?
If there is a decision to proceed to full business case then there is a great deal more detailed work to do before the boards of both organisations are asked to take a decision on whether or not merger should go ahead.

This will include engagement with our staff, people who use our services, our commissioners, other healthcare providers, and other stakeholders such as charities closely linked to our work. We will be explaining what merger would look like, and seeking views on what improvements we should seek to achieve in any merger and what concerns we need to address.

Both QVH and UHSussex are foundation trusts with councils of governors. The role of the council of governors is to seek assurance that the board of directors has followed an appropriate process in deciding to merge, and that it has taken account of the interests of members and of the public in that process. We will be working closely with our governors to provide the information that they need to consider this.

The senior teams of the two trusts will be meeting regularly to work on the detail needed, and the process will be overseen by the independent non-executive directors of both trusts alongside senior NHS leads from NHS England and Improvement and the Sussex Health and Care Partnership.

The full business case would be presented to the boards of both QVH and the new organisation. The timetable for this has not been set.

When would the merger happen, if it is to go ahead?
No date has been agreed at this stage. The strategic case being prepared will include timelines.

How to find out more
Register as a member – it is free and easy to join and it gives you the chance to hear our news by email.

We will also be updating the News section here on our website when there is new information.