North Cumbria hospital trust looks at merger

Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle The Trust said it had previously faced long standing financial pressures

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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust could merge with another organisation, it has been revealed.

The trust said it could not achieve status as a foundation trust alone, within the required timescales.

It said the decision was made as it was unable to meet plans set out in the government's White Paper which requires all NHS trusts to become Foundation Trusts by 2013/14.

The Royal College of Nursing has called on the trust to give assurances.

The trust board blamed changes to NHS funding and a further reduction in income for the coming year.

In a statement it said: "The Trust Board has decided that the best option to continue to secure high quality and safe services for the people of North Cumbria means that we now need to seek a formal arrangement, through a merger or acquisition with an existing NHS Foundation Trust subject to appropriate consultation."

The RCN called on the trust to consider several actions.

'Must commit'

These included ensuring services remained local, and demonstrate that any merger must be in the best interests of patients and staff.

It added: "It is absolutely vital that, in the current economic climate, the trust does not rush into a bad deal with an inappropriate provider, purely to make the numbers add up.

"Finally, the trust must commit to work closely with the Royal College of Nursing during this transitional period."

The trust said it had previously faced long-standing financial pressures caused by providing a full range of services across both the Cumberland Infirmary, which is a PFI scheme, and West Cumberland Hospital.

It said: "Over the last three years, the trust has achieved significant cost improvement programmes, which go further than the national requirements of achieving 4% efficiency savings."

It said plans for the redevelopment of West Cumberland Hospital would continue.

A full consultation regarding any possible mergers is due to start.

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