Weston Area Health NHS Trust to Explore Options for Future Organisational Form

Weston Area Health NHS Trust (WAHT) is to begin discussions with NHS South of England and the new NHS Trust Development Authority to explore the organisational form it might take in the future. 


In common with every other Hospital Trust that is not currently a Foundation Trust WAHT must seek approval from Monitor (the health regulator) to become a Foundation Trust by March 2014, or seek the help of the NHS Trust Development Authority to find an alternative organisational form.  The Trust Board has recognised for some time that as one of the smallest Hospital Trusts in the country, WAHT does not have the critical mass of clinically and financially sustainable services to become a standalone NHS Foundation Trust so it will now begin discussions with NHS South of England and the new NHS Trust Development Authority.


Hospital Trusts that do not become Foundation Trusts have two options.  They can be acquired by another NHS Foundation Trust, or they can find a partner to run the services that local Clinical Commissioning Groups wish to commission.  Such a partner could be an independent sector partner, a voluntary organisation or a charity.


The WAHT Board decided to explore these further options now that it has become clear that the health community in North Somerset will not be able to proceed with an Integrated Care Organisation in North Somerset. 


Peter Colclough, Weston Area Health NHS Trust Chief Executive, said “We have put considerable effort into exploring the feasibility of bringing together Social Services provided by North Somerset Council, the services provided by North Somerset Community Partnership and the Acute Service provided by Weston Area Health NHS Trust into a single Integrated Care Organisation.  But we have reluctantly concluded that this larger organisation could not pass the tests associated with becoming a Foundation Trust in its own right, in particular because of the scale of the financial challenge that would still face the new organisation.  The North Somerset health community has a long history of financial difficulty and whilst our work has shown it is possible to narrow the financial gap it has not been possible to eliminate it”.


The decision not to proceed with an Integrated Care Organisation does not in any way diminish the commitment of local care providers to co-ordinating their activities and delivering more integrated services.


The Chairman of Weston Area Health NHS Trust, Chris Creswick, said “Weston General Hospital currently provides safe, high quality services but it is increasingly clear that as more healthcare is best delivered very locally – in GP surgeries or at home – or in large, regional specialist hospitals – small district general hospitals find themselves under increasing pressure”.


Dr Mary Backhouse, Chief Clinical Officer Designate of the North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We are committed to providing high quality, sustainable, local services for local people and believe there is a future for Weston Hospital to continue to provide services for patients across North Somerset, now and in the future.  We want local patients to continue to have access to as wide a range of services at Weston as possible, including emergency services, routine surgical operations, diagnostics and outpatient services, with the ability for patients to access more specialist services in Bristol when appropriate.  Our priority is, by working with stakeholders, patients and service providers, to create an affordable local healthcare system that provides the quality of services our patients expect and deserve.”


The WAHT Chairman, Chris Creswick, added “The Trust Board recognises that for staff, patients and for our local communities this will be a period of transition and some uncertainty, but we are committed to ensuring that the safety and quality of existing services are maintained.  We will engage widely and extensively with all of our staff and stakeholders as we explore the options for the future development of health services in this area.  In the meantime we remain committed to being full partners in the development of integrated care services for our local population.  The first large scale integrated care pilot will begin shortly, and the Trust will be actively involved in this with our colleagues in Social Care and Community Health Services”.


For further information, please contact: John Underwood on 07730 955689