Although both trusts deny the move to becoming a group is a ‘merger’, their separate governing boards plan to merge into one executive board by April 2025, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter
Whipps Cross Hospital (above) will be one of seven hospitals managed by the new group, Credit: Google Streetview
Two East London NHS trusts have announced they will become one huge hospital “group” covering the whole of East London.
The two NHS trusts – Barts Health and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals (BHRUT) – manage seven hospitals serving more than two million people.
Today, the trusts announced that they will become “one group, two trusts, seven hospitals” under the “shorthand” of Barts Health Group.
Although both trusts deny the move to becoming a group is a “merger,” their separate governing boards plan to merge into one executive board by April 2025.
In a joint statement today, the trusts told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the group model means “localising where possible but centralising where necessary”.
They added: “As two sovereign bodies we are creating a new group model to help both trusts overcome their mutual challenges now and become stronger together in future.
“We believe we can deliver better results, more effectively and efficiently, by combining resources where appropriate.”
When formed, Barts Health Group will oversee hospitals serving residents of six East London boroughs: Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Newham, Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge.
The announcement also follows the formation of NHS North East London in July 2022, a new body tasked with coordinating all healthcare in East London including hospital, GP and dental services.
Although Homerton Healthcare also falls under NHS North East London’s geographical area, it appears not to have plans to formally join the Barts Health Group.
Barts Health and BHRUT formally first agreed to collaborate in 2021 and have appointed several “group” executives to both hospitals’ boards including Chair-in-Common Jacqui Smith and Group Chief Executive Matthew Trainer.
Examples of collaboration between the trusts include a scheme which redirects patients in ambulances away from hospitals, launched by Barts Health in November 2021 and expanded to BHRUT in January this year.
The trusts have also sent patients between hospitals for diagnostic scans, and tried to control the cost of temporary staff by not competing with each other on paying rates. Barts Health is also supporting BHRUT with introducing a long-overdue electronic patient record system.
However, public details of how exactly the trusts plan to collaborate in the future remain limited.
A Board Collaboration Committee was formed in July 2022, to oversee the move to becoming a group, but Barts Health has refused to share its minutes on decision-making records.
In response to a freedom of information request earlier this year, Barts Health told the LDRS it needs a “safe space to develop ideas and make decisions”.
It added that sharing any details of the committee’s future plans would “inhibit free and frank exchange of views and opinion”.
A spokesperson said both trusts agreed to “formalise” their collaboration in July this year, although formal approval of this does not appear to be recorded in either trusts’ public board papers.