Bedford Hospital looks for partners to secure its future
Finding an NHS partner for Bedford Hospital is crucial to securing its long-term future, bosses have said.
The hospital trust is looking to join up with organisations that have already attained foundation trust status, so it can achieve the same by March 2014.
It said it recognised it would not be "financially viable" in the long term to do it alone.
Under the Health and Social Care bill, all service providers must achieve foundation trust status or face merger.
Foundation trust status would mean the hospital would remain within the NHS, but be accountable to a local board of governors rather than the Department of Health.
Hospital bosses believe that partnering others at this stage means it can "maintain control of the future" of the hospital's services instead of being forced into a merger.
Trust chief executive Joe Harrison said that "despite good clinical and financial performance", it would not be able to reach foundation trust status as a standalone organisation.
"We lack the necessary clinical critical mass and long-term financial viability, due to our size," he said.
"Good performance means that we are in a strong position to form a partnership with another organisation, and has meant that we can discount other options, like a private operating franchise."
Depending on what interest is shown, the board is expected to recommend the option in October.