Two Hampshire NHS hospital trusts to merge
Two Hampshire NHS hospital trusts are to merge to ensure one of them can achieve foundation status.
Winchester and Eastleigh NHS Trust will merge with Basingstoke and North Hampshire NHS Foundation Trust.
The former has been unable to achieve foundation status "due to long-standing financial issues", the NHS said.
Hospitals with foundation status have devolved powers and are not directed by the government. They have more freedom over strategy and how services are run.
They are accountable to local communities through "members" - anyone who lives in the area, has been a patient or works at the trust.
They then elect a board of governors.
The government wants all NHS hospital trusts to gain foundation status by 2014.
"The process is at a very early stage and there will now follow a lengthy period of due diligence and public engagement," the NHS said.
"Hospital clinicians have been meeting to discuss how services could work better together for patients and staff through single management teams.
"Any significant changes to services would be subject to public consultation."
The NHS said the trusts should be a single foundation trust by April 2012.
Basingstoke and North Hampshire achieved foundation status in 2006.