The Department of Health, Monitor and the Trust Development Authority should support service improvement and transformation where possible, rather than instigate merger. If a merger is contemplated, there needs to be a more realistic assessment of the costs and benefits.
- Between 2010 and mid-2015, almost all of the mergers involving NHS trusts and foundation trusts were initiated by regulators or administrators, with the aim of either helping NHS trusts to gain foundation trust status or rescuing providers from financial challenges.
- There are serious weaknesses in organisations’ articulation of the case for merger and in their assessment of alternative options.
- A large amount of money is being spent on such mergers – for example, £2 billion was spent on just 12 mergers during this period. However, it is unclear whether mergers are likely to address the root causes of providers’ difficulties in many cases.
While mergers will continue to play a role in the NHS, the Department of Health, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority should rule out mergers as a way for NHS trusts to gain foundation trust status or as a response to failure, focusing instead on supporting actual service improvement and system wide transformation.
- Given the lack of evidence that mergers typically lead to more sustainable organisations, it is increasingly difficult to justify the amount of funding being dedicated to mergers rather than other potentially more effective approaches to transformation.
- Where providers contemplate transactions, we need to ensure a higher standard of strategic thinking on alternative options and a realistic assessment of the costs and benefits of merger.
- Instead of promoting mergers, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority should play the role of sceptical shareholders, providing objective oversight and challenge.
- The government should ensure greater transparency in how public funds are used and evaluate whether investments in mergers deliver value for money.