Coronavirus: Pandemic delays Dorset NHS trusts merger

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Image source, RBCH NHS Foundation Trust
Image caption, A six-storey extension is planned at Royal Bournemouth Hospital as part of the £147m merger

A planned merger of two NHS trusts in Dorset has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It meant staff would be able to "focus on responding" to Covid-19 cases, the Poole and Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospital trusts said.

The £147m reorganisation of services, which includes the closure of Poole's A&E, maternity and paediatric units, is being reviewed by a government panel.

The trusts had hoped to complete the merger by 1 July.

Under the proposals, Royal Bournemouth Hospital would become a major emergency centre while Poole Hospital would focus on planned care.

This is expected to involve substantial work at both sites, including a six-storey extension at Bournemouth.

Image source, RBCH NHS Foundation Trust
Image caption, Bournemouth Hospital's extension plans will be considered by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.

The move has attracted strong opposition with concerns that downgrading the A&E department at Poole Hospital to an urgent treatment centre would negatively affect the treatment of patients living further away from Bournemouth, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

The trusts said increased specialisation would improve care.

Debbie Fleming, joint chief executive of the trusts, said: "It would be very wrong to take our clinicians away from the frontline to complete the final merger processes, given this challenging and unprecedented situation.

"Therefore, while we shall continue to progress our merger work behind the scenes, we now know that we will not be able to complete this transaction by 1 July, as hoped."

She added the move was "a delay and not a change in direction" and announced the new trust would no longer be called East Dorset Hospitals NHS Trust, as revealed in December.

Instead it would become University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust "in recognition of the extremely close working relationship" between the hospitals and the University of Bournemouth, she added.

A new date has not yet been set for the completion of the merger.

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