A formal merger between health trusts in Sunderland and South Tyneside has moved a step closer according to bosses.
The formal merger of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation has been given positive feedback from regulators NHS Improvement and a recommendation from each individual Trust Board to proceed with the transaction.
The respective Council of Governors for each individual Trust met separately yesterday and approved the recommendation from each individual Trust Board that the application for the merger should now be submitted to NHS Improvement.
This means work can progress to complete the process by the end of March with the new organisation, ‘South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’, on track to come into operation on April 1.
Bringing together a combined workforce of over 8,000 staff, the new Trust will serve a core population of around 430,000 people as well as providing specialist services to over 800,000 people across the North East and beyond.
As part of the merger plans hospital bosses have also confirmed the trial of a new dedicated staff shuttle bus service between South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital to begin from April 1.
It will aim to reduce the need for staff to use their own cars to travel between sites and it is hoped this will also relieve pressures on hospital car parking facilities, freeing up more parking spaces for patients and visitors.
Regulators NHS Improvement praised the work undertaken by the trusts to prepare for the merger.
They said they agreed with the clear strategic rationale for the merger, describing a "compelling clinical case for the trusts to continue their integration journey and build on patient benefits achieved to date".
Executive regional managing director for NHS Improvement (North), Lyn Simpson, said: “This is an important step forward for health and care across South Tyneside and Sunderland and one which will lead to substantial benefits for patients across the region.
"It is clear that the joint executive team are already collaborating well together and making gains that will impact positively on a new single organisation, and improve services for local people.”
Each trust will now formally submit their application to become one Trust to regulators NHS Improvement with the process expected to complete in March.
Further work will take place over the coming year to continue to integrate teams and bring organisational cultures together.
An elections process to appoint a new Council of Governors for the new ‘South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’ is also set to begin from April and will be widely advertised.
Ken Bremner, chief Executive of the new South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is an exciting new chapter in our journey of working together and becoming one Trust will undoubtedly bring many more benefits, not only for our patients, but for our teams across South Tyneside and Sunderland
“We have always been very clear that the formal merger of our Trusts is in the very best interests of patients, staff and the local populations we serve and this view has been echoed loud and clear by our regulators and supported by each Council of Governors.
“I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard and given their time, energy and commitment to make the merger process a success.
"We can now look forward to continuing to improve the quality of patient care and pushing the boundaries of excellence in everything we do in the years ahead as South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.”