Thirty National Health Service trust hospitals are to merge with savings being poured back into health services. Alan Milburn, the health minister, announced the merger of the trusts from April next year which will pave the way for more. It will reverse some of the Tory changes to the NHS, but it could lead to more hospitals being closed. The trend will be given a push with a White Paper on replacing the internal market in the autumn, which Mr Milburn said would "point the way towards fewer trusts and a new strategic role for health authorities".
Mr Milburn said the 16 merger proposals involving 30 trusts were "evidence of a new co-operative culture developing inside the NHS", as the Government moved to replace the internal market, in which hospitals competed with each other for resources from health authorities and GPs. But patients will be concerned by the possibility that local services could suffer. The mergers are likely to mean the transfer of some services to neighbouring hospitals to cut costs, which could increase travel to attend clinics.
Mr Milburn said improving services to patients would be the key test before mergers were approved. -Colin BrownReuse content