A controversial alliance between two hospital trusts has taken a step forward with an agreement to have a joint management structure.
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has announced it is to have a single executive and management team accountable for running all hospital and community services across both areas.
Hospital bosses say the move is an important step in further improving the delivery of patient care and it is not a merger of the two organisations - each will maintain local accountability and independence and will hold the newly-formed joint executive and management team to account for each individual organisation.
Both Trusts will continue to function as statutory NHS Foundation Trusts.
The alliance plan, announced earlier this year, has proved controversial in South Tyneside where there are fears that it will lead to key service being lost to the borough.
The boards and the councils of governors at both trusts say they took the joint management decision in the interests of delivering "nationally recognised, high quality, cost effective, sustainable healthcare for the people they serve."
Earlier this year, the two foundation trusts formed the alliance and set up the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group to look at jointly providing some clinical services.
This latest announcement follows a ‘memorandum of understanding’ agreed by both organisations.
The organisations say that, in coming weeks, an executive and management team will be formed from both Trusts.
It is anticipated that the new structure will generate initial savings in excess of £500,000 and, by reducing duplication.
Hospital bosses say the move will also give:
· More focused leadership which will ensure a consistently high quality and safe service for patients
· Shared experience and learning across the two organisations
· Greater flexibility in managing pressures across the system, with improved resilience of services for local residents by sharing clinical expertise
· Support for the transformation of local services and empowering local people to stay well and be looked after outside of hospital
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Ken Bremner said: “We know how important it is to local communities to have access to a wide range of high quality health services, with the best possible health outcomes.
“It is, therefore, our collective ambition to ensure this vision is realised across Sunderland and South Tyneside with equitable access to the highest quality of care, regardless of where you live. It is my commitment to patients and staff alike that this joint executive management team will act, and act only in the very best interests of patient care.”
Steve Williamson, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive, added: “Across the NHS in England we are already seeing historical organisational boundaries being replaced with more collaborative ways of working to benefit patient care and provide staff with the best possible support. It is important that our collective joint management team builds on the many positive working practices which exist within both Foundation Trusts and shares this widely, especially for services that require improvements.
“Over the coming months, our organisations will work together to engage local communities and staff to listen to their views about local services and understand areas we need to improve to help inform our priorities for the future.”
Trust Chairs, John Anderson (Sunderland) and Neil Mundy (South Tyneside), said in a joint statement: “Our Trusts have been working well together as part of a Group structure since February.
"We feel it is now essential, as does our regulator NHS Improvement, that if we are to protect the future sustainability of health services for both our populations, we now move to a joint executive and management team as quickly as possible.”
Hospital chiefs say the alliance is aimed at meeting a series of challenges, including an ageing population, increasing numbers of people accessing urgent and emergency care services and significant challenges around the recruitment and retention of specialist doctors and nursing staff .
In addition, there is a financial gap which means nationally the NHS must deliver efficiencies to the tune of £30 billion per year by 2020/21.
Locally, it is anticipated there will be 15%-20 % funding gap by 2020/21 for total healthcare spend across the whole South Tyneside and Sunderland health system.