Epsom and St Helier hospital merger criteria set out
Criteria for potential hospital mergers in Surrey and south London have been announced by the board overseeing the process.
Epsom Hospital could merge with Ashford and St Peter's NHS and the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Trust.
St Helier could merge with St George's Healthcare NHS Trust in London.
Epsom and St Helier are currently run by one NHS trust but the trust is unable to become a foundation trust in its present form.
Jan Sawkins, independent chairwoman of the transaction board which is in charge of the Epsom and St Helier demerger, said the criteria ensured that patients would come first.
Uniting the workforce
She said: "The agreed criteria clearly shows that patients should come first, and rightly so. A bid that doesn't take this on board will fail."
The top priorities have been listed as better outcomes for patients, better care for local residents, and improvements to how local health services work together.
Bidders must also have plans in place for uniting the combined workforce and be ready to merge in order to minimise uncertainty for patients and staff.
The bidders have until 11 November to submit their bids and final recommendations will be made by the transaction board in January next year.
The government requires all hospitals to achieve foundation status by 2014.