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Plans have been revealed this week for the eventual merger of neighbouring hospital trusts on the South Coast of England, building on closer working between the two during the Covid-19 crisis.
The proposals involve Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“Our ambition with a new, single organisation is to create new specialist services”
In a statement, the trusts said they believed a single organisation would “create exciting opportunities” to grow and develop services and continue to deliver outstanding care.
The trusts have been managed by a shared executive team since April 2017. Under the agreement, Western Sussex provided management support to Brighton and Sussex, including a joint board.
However, they currently have separate directors of nursing, following the departure last year of the previous joint incumbent, Nicola Ranger, for King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Maggie Davies is chief nurse at Western Sussex, which she joined in 2014 as deputy director of nursing.
Its neighbour’s chief nurse is Carolyn Morrice who joined Brighton and Sussex in October 2019. She was previously chief nurse at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
Brighton and Sussex has around 4,000 whole-time equivalent nursing staff, while Western Sussex has slightly less with around 3,000.
Brighton and Sussex is an acute teaching hospital working across two main sites at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.
Similarly, Western Sussex also runs two main acute sites, at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester and Worthing Hospital in the town of the same name.
Western Sussex is currently rated as “outstanding” by the Care Quality Commission and was the first non-specialist acute to gain the rating for all key inspection areas.
Its neighbour, meanwhile, was taken out of special measures in January 2019 after a “dramatic change” in the organisation’s performance.
The trust, which was previously rated “inadequate” overall, jumped up to “good” following an inspection by the CQC in September 2018. It is also currently rated “outstanding” for being caring.
Dame Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of both trusts, said: “Our ambition with a new, single organisation is to create new specialist services and continue to develop and deliver outstanding local care to our patients.
She described the “talent, expertise and dedication” shown by staff at both organisations as being “remarkable”.
“In recent months, as we have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, the collaboration and mutual support between the trusts has been hugely effective,” she said.
“This partnership has enabled us to provide the very best care for our patients while maintaining our focus on staff safety,” said Dame Marianne.
“Building on this closer working relationship and creating a new, single organisation will provide us with many opportunities to design and grow services for our local communities and improve the care we provide across Sussex.”
The trusts said the next steps were the development of a full business case with staff, partners, governors, members and local communities “involved in creating the new organisation”.
Dame Marianne, who has a nursing background herself, added: “We want everyone in our communities to play a part in shaping the future of health care in Sussex and their views will play a valuable role in building a new trust.”