CMA Provisionally Clears NHS Trust Merger

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally cleared the proposed merger between two hospital trusts, following an extensive investigation.

Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (ASP) and Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (RSC) will form a new organisation should the merger go ahead.

The two trusts previously provided clinical services in Ashford, Chertsey and Guildford.

Mergers in the NHS can be controversial owing to the fact that competition is considered one of the most important factors in providing quality services.

Thus, the merger of the two trusts was referred for an in-depth phase 2 inquiry in February after the initial CMA investigation concluded that the proposed acquisition could reduce healthcare competition.

Patients currently have the opportunity to choose which hospital to attend for consultant-led outpatient appointments.

This form of patient choice therefore has a positive knock-on effect on the quality of healthcare, as competing hospitals strive to provide a superior service in order to attract patients and, concurrently, funding.

However, the CMA examined evidence from ASP and RSC about the provision of healthcare services in the area of the merger, and found that the proposal will not result in a significant reduction in competition.

Speaking about the decision, Simon Polito, Chairman of the inquiry group, was keen to emphasise that the investigation had diligently considered the merger, owing to its importance for NHS care.

Polito stated: “Choice of hospital for patients and commissioners has an important role to play in the NHS, as do a number of other factors that help to maintain and improve the quality of services. Indeed, we have been struck throughout this investigation by the commitment and professional pride in the provision of high quality care for patients shown by the many different NHS representatives we have encountered.”

The Chairman was also keen to outline the methodology behind the decision-making process: “The impact of a hospital merger on competition will largely depend on the number and strength of alternative service providers in the local area. There are a number of hospitals nearby which currently attract significant numbers of patients from the local area. We consider that these are viewed as credible alternatives by patients and GPs.”

Concluding, Polito was adamant that the correction decision had been reached: “Against this background, and following a detailed investigation, we are satisfied that in each of the services where the hospitals overlap, the merged trust will face significant competitive pressures from other local hospitals.”

Tasked with carrying out investigations into mergers, the CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. Launched in 2013, it is an independent, non-ministerial government department.

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WMAHSN Health and Wealth Economic Summit 2015 Announced

The latest edition of the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN) will offer insight to a wide variety of healthcare professionals.

This free event will take place on Tuesday 13 October from 9.45am – 4pm at the Garden Suite, Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

The 2015 edition of this event is particularly noteworthy as it will launch the SME innovation fund, Innovation and Adoption Service and industry gateway.

Professionals involved with the healthcare, along with relevant academics, will have the opportunity to gain important information on the latest opportunities in healthcare.

There will be a particular focus on improving health holistically and creating wealth within a healthcare environment.

Collaboarting with stakeholders in a wide variety of healthcare settings will be another major topic of the event.

The WMAHSN is a relatively new body, designated by NHS England on Thursday 23th May, 2013. The WMAHSN Network purports to “creates and support an environment in which the health and wealth of the population of the West Midlands can improve and prosper.”

This latest event will update attendees on the achievements of the organisation over the last twelve months, with particular attention given to the seven point growth plan that the WMAHSN has put in place.

Delegates will be given the opportunity to pose questions during an extensive question time session, with a particular focus on discussing the Innovation and Adoption Service and industry innovation support.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided throughout the day. On-site car parking and Wi-Fi will also be made available.

Interested parties can register for the WMAHSN Health and Wealth Economic Summit by clicking here.

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Monitor Investigating Finance of Cheshire-Based NHS Trust

The government body Monitor has announced that is it to undertake an investigation into the financial conduct of Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Finances at the trust have deteriorated significantly, and the regulator will examine the reasons for this, and also attempt to establish an approach that will lead to an improvement.

Monitor intervened after it became evident that the trust was experiencing financial difficulty.

The Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had, in fact, reported a surplus during last year’s accounting period, but its financial position has since declined significantly. Reports suggest that the trust will accrue a £5.4 million deficit for the 2015/16 financial year.

The trust is responsible for Leighton Hospital and the Victoria Infirmary, and plays a major role in one of England’s largest and most prosperous counties.

Speaking on the issue, Paul Chandler, Regional Director at Monitor, stated that the government body is concerned about the financial health of the Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

“The trust’s finances have deteriorated and the most recent projections show that things could get worse over the coming year,” Chandler warned.

“Patients in and around Crewe, Northwich and Winsford rely on the services this trust provides, so we’re investigating to find out more about the problem and what can be done to improve the situation,” Chandler continued.

Chandler emphasised that no decision has yet been made on whether regulatory action would be necessary, but he did indicate that such a decision could be expected imminently.

Independent NHS trust are intended to provide care on a sustainable basis, and it is a major part of Monitor’s duties to ensure that this remit is being met adequately.

In the case of the Cheshire trust, the degrading financial position of the trust has been a massive red flag to the government body that further investigation is vital.

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Despite Government Measures, Alcohol-Related Deaths Rise in Scotland

Despite efforts to promote awareness of responsible alcohol usage, new figures indicate that the number of alcohol-related deaths in Scotland has increased over the last twelve months.

The Daily Record reported on figures from the National Records of Scotland which indicated that there were 1,152 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland during 2014; a 5 percent increase on the previous year.

Previous research has indicated that Scots are the most likely among UK residents to engage in dangerous binge drinking.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 36 percent of Scots confessed to binge drinking in a 2013 survey; a larger proportion than in any other region of Britain.

And Scotland was placed eight on the so-called ‘alcohol consumption world league table’ back in 2009.

Statistics published by the World Health Organization at that time indicated that nearly 50 million litres of pure alcohol were consumed in Scotland in 2007. This placed the nation above Spain, Italy and France in terms of pure alcohol consumption.

Commenting on the publicised alcohol-related deaths in Scotland, Public Health Minister Maureen Watt struck a cautious note, indicating that the figures were worrying but should be seen in a wider context of a decline in alcohol consumption in Scotland.

“This increase in alcohol-related deaths is disappointing, particularly given the decreasing trend we have seen in recent years,” Watt stated.

But the Health Minister also made it clear that the country has a lot of work to do in order to eradicate problem drinking, or at least reduce it to an acceptable level.

“Alcohol deaths in Scotland are almost double those in the early 1990s. The five per cent increase in 2014, following a two per cent rise the previous year, shows that even though significant progress has been made since 2006 far more needs to be done,” Watt opined.

Watt added that the government has attempted to introduce measures to discourage binge drinking, stating that the alcohol framework put in place by the Scottish government consist of over 40 measures.

These are intended to reduce consumption, support families and communities, promote positive attitudes and positive choices, and improve treatment and support services.

Watt also suggested that availability and pricing played a major role in problem drinking, and this view was echoed by chair of BMA Scotland Dr Peter Bennie.

“The Scottish Government has made great strides to introduce a comprehensive alcohol strategy, but it will inevitably be less effective without measures to deal with the affordability of alcohol and the proliferation of cheap, high strength alcohol that fuels heavy drinking and causes the greatest harm,” Bennie asserted.

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