A new hospital acquisition approved by the health regulator for the NHS will benefit patients and the general public in Devon.
In particular, thousands of patients located in South Devon are set to benefit from more integrated healthcare after the move by Monitor.
South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has acquired Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust, effectively merging the two organisations.
As the two trusts already collaborated on a close basis, indeed already sharing some back office functions, the potential for the two to cooperate on a wider basis is obvious.
Resulting from the decision will be a joint healthcare provision in the South Devon region, with the two trusts jointly providing acute, community and social care services.
Although Monitor has already approved this transaction, the process of assessing its legitimacy is nonetheless ongoing.
The health regulator has particularly requested the newly created trust to continue making improvements with regard to patient flow.
Both A&E and routine procedures are affected by this ongoing monitoring, and the health regulator has also requested the trust to improve its existing plans to integrate care.
Speaking on the subject of the South Devon acquisition, Miranda Carter, Executive Director of Provider Appraisal at Monitor, was keen to point out that this was a logical move, and beneficial for patients in the region.
“South Devon Healthcare provides valued services for patients across South Devon and Torbay, including general, elective and emergency care. By integrating these services with Torbay and Southern Devon’s community and social care services it will be able to provide local people with care that is more convenient, closer to home, and with a greater focus on keeping people healthy and out of hospital,” Carter pointed out.
In addition, Carter suggested that the model acquisition which has been created in South Devon could act as a template for other regions in the United Kingdom.
“This is a good example of the kind of innovative change that will help trusts to improve care for patients, whilst also offering better value for money services and meeting the challenges faced by the NHS,” Carter noted.
The Executive Director of Provider Appraisal at Monitor was also keen to outline to the newly created trust that it has certain responsibilities.
“Now that we have approved this acquisition we expect the trust to press ahead with plans and ensure services integrate smoothly for patients and staff,” Carter reminded the newly created trust.
Following the merger, the trust will be called Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.
A recent Monitor investigation has discovered that Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has not breached NHS commissioning regulations.
But the CCG will be suspended from carrying out further duties as the next phase of the investigation is concluded.
Monitor has since published the results of the investigation, after question marks were raised regarding the process for selecting community service providers in east Devon.
The sector regulator for health services in England was called upon to explore how commissioner selected Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust as its preferred provider of community services for adults with complex care needs.
But the investigation revealed that the commissioner did indeed satisfactorily consider patient needs and the service improvements required.
The process designed by the commissioner was thus deemed to be satisfactory to enable an adequate number of proposals to be considered appropriately.
However, the CCG still has further work to do in order to establish that the requisite level of value for money is being achieved before finally confirming the contract.
Catherine Davies, Executive Director of Co-operation and Competition at Monitor, noted that “patients are likely to be better off as a result of our investigation because the CCG will do further work before awarding the contract, especially around ensuring value for money.”
Monitor found that the CCG’s process was entirely proportionate, and thus the provider selected from the available options was appropriate according to Monitor’s conclusions.
Thus, the CCG’s process did not breach transparency requirements. “Having set out its vision for community services in the local area, NEW Devon CCG chose between providers in a way that was tailored to its needs,” Davies explained.
However, the Executive Director did point out that this particular process might not be applicable in other cases. “The approach NEW Devon CCG took won’t work in all cases, but it shows that commissioners can be flexible in their processes for selecting providers,” Davies opined.
In conclusion, Monitor found that there was no discriminatory or unequal treatment of potential providers in the process, and that it was unaffected by conflicts of interest.
Monitor had begun an investigation after it received a complaint from Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust.
The trust is currently responsible for community services in the region, having been awarded the contract to provide them.
Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust claimed than the CCG had carried out a process that was inadequate and unfair, but this notion has ultimately been rejected by Monitor.