Ipswich and Colchester hospital boards back merger
A proposed merger of two NHS hospital trusts has won the backing of their governing bodies.
Plans to integrate Ipswich and Colchester General hospitals was approved at a joint public meeting of the trusts' boards.
If NHS regulators and health secretary Jeremy Hunt approve the merger, it could be in place by July.
The trusts' chair David White said the proposal means the hospitals can "save, strengthen and even grow services".
Mr White, chair of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust and The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, said it was a "historic moment in the history of both organisations".
"Our aim for the merger is to see our patients at the right time, to attract and retain the best staff and to provide the latest treatments locally," he said.
"Joining together will help us do this - as the largest NHS trust in the region we will have the scale to save, strengthen and even grow some services."
The merger plans were first mooted last year.
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of the Healthwatch Suffolk patients' watchdog, said travel for patients, carers, volunteers and staff had been a concern from the outset, but "on paper, the merger is the right thing".
Dr Barbara Buckley, who is already medical director at both hospitals, said the merger was not based on any plans to move services from one hospital to the other.
But added without the merger, the risk was neither hospital could provide the "wide variety of services" they do at the moment.