John calls on Health Secretary to stop hospital merger

MP John Healey has demanded the Health Secretary step in to stop any merger involving Rotherham hospital.

The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust is being forced by the Government to cut £50 million from its budget and is drawing up a five-year plan.

Interim chief executive Michael Morgan has written to other local hospitals saying reconfiguration of Rotherham hospital services and a merger with another Trust are options on the table. Mr Morgan asks them whether they are interested in working with Rotherham on this.

Rotherham’s three MPs understand that Rotherham hospital bosses were told by the Government’s regulator Monitor that they must look at merger as one of the options for its “recovery plan”, which the hospital have to submit to Monitor by the end of the year.

The MPs are pressing for a meeting with the Monitor chief executive in London to challenge this instruction.

Last month Mr Healey launched a campaign to keep NHS services in Rotherham, and more than 2,000 people have already signed up in support.

Challenging Jeremy Hunt in Parliament yesterday (22 October), Mr Healey said: “How can NHS patients and staff have any confidence in decisions about their local services when they are taken by the Competition Commission on the overriding grounds of what is best for a competitive market and not what is best for patients?

“Will he learn from the failure of the merger between the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and take merger off the table as an option for Rotherham hospital?”

Mr Hunt said the competition authorities make decisions based on what is in the best interests of patients and do not hold competition as an overriding ideology.

“He is right that we need to work closely with those authorities to ensure that they have the expertise to take decisions in the right way and with trusts to ensure that they have the expertise to ensure that they do not stumble when they go through those processes”, Mr Hunt argued.

Mr Healey said afterwards: “A merger would mean services taken out of Rotherham and patients having to travel further, and it would mean decisions about our services in Rotherham being taken by others.

“Even if it made sense for Rotherham hospital the decision would not be made by NHS doctors, managers or ministers but by the Competition Commission on the grounds of what was best for market competition in the NHS. This is the new legal basis for the NHS that Coalition ministers have set out in their health and social care act 2011.

“The Trust board, chair and chief executive should turn round and tell Monitor it’s a non-starter in Rotherham and not needed.”

The MPs are writing to Mr Morgan opposing a merger, and expressing concern that it could lead to cherry-picking of Rotherham hospital services by other providers, fragmentation of services and even the possibility of Rotherham being left without a proper local hospital.