Two Somerset NHS trusts merge to create unique NHS trust
On Saturday 1 April, Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (YDH) and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (SFT) merged to create a new trust called Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.
The new trust provides community, mental health and learning disability services throughout the county and into Dorset, along with acute services from both Yeovil Hospital and Musgrove Park Hospital and a quarter of Somerset’s GP practices through its subsidiary Symphony Healthcare Services.
Peter Lewis, our chief executive, said: “We have created one trust because we want to provide better care for our patients and ensure that everyone in the county enjoys consistent access to high quality services irrespective of where they live. Working as one organisation, and therefore eliminating organisational boundaries, puts us in a better position to support people to stay well, give equal priority to mental and physical health, deliver services in the most appropriate setting, help us to further improve care for our patients and service users, and make better use of our resources.
“Our clinical services are coming together to plan how they can deliver services across the whole county including where appropriate in community settings and integrated with mental health services. Removing organisational boundaries, gives services the opportunity to work differently, to create more resilience with larger teams that are better able to respond to workforce shortages, and at the same time to provide better and more equitable services across the county.”
Colin Drummond, chairman of the our new trust, said: “Our two legacy trusts have had a close working relationship for many years. However, coming together into one uniquely integrated NHS organisation is ground-breaking and gives us the potential to make a real difference for the local population. I want to thank our colleagues who are coming together to plan and deliver joint services with the aim of providing absolutely the best care we can to our patients, helping them to stay well and giving support, care and treatment when they need it.”
Jonathan Higman, chief executive of NHS Somerset, said: “The merger provides a great opportunity for us to offer more joined-up services for the people of Somerset. The two trusts have been working very closely together for a number of years and the merger allows us to focus on improving the health and well-being of the people of Somerset. We wish colleagues at the new Somerset NHS Foundation Trust all the best for the future.”
Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow said: “I welcome what the foundation trusts in Somerset have been doing over the past seven years to put patient and population health at the forefront of all that they do whilst minimising bureaucracy. The merger between Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (SFT) and Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (YDH) is a further major step on the way. Uniquely for an English county it brings all acute, mental health and community hospitals together with a proportion of primary care practices as well into a single organisation. And this will enable the development of further new models of care to meet the needs of the county. Already the work of the SFT proved invaluable during Covid and in particular led to it becoming mental health trust of the year in 2021. Somerset is proving itself to be an exemplar for the NHS.”
Minister of State for Health Will Quince said: “This merger will support tens of thousands of patients across Somerset and Dorset – offering quicker access to the highest-quality care.
“Greater co-operation has already yielded results – specialist dementia staff at Yeovil Hospital and Musgrove Park Hospital have shared expertise to offer better support to those suffering from the disease.
“NHS staff from both trusts are also working with the homeless and rough sleepers service to ensure these patients get access to the right physical and mental healthcare, helping to save lives.
“These kind of collaborative approaches will strengthen our NHS workforce and help bring down waiting lists in the county, one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities.”
Process to merge
This merger is the culmination of a number of years’ work and follows on from the preceding merger in 2020 of Somerset Partnership and Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trusts.
In March 2021, both YDH and SFT submitted a joint strategic case to NHS England for review. Following that, they developed a detailed clinical strategy, patient benefits case, business case and associated documents. These documents set out why they planned to merge, what they would achieve as one trust, the process for merging and how the new organisation would operate. These documents were submitted to NHS England in autumn last year and the regulator spent several months reviewing them to understand them in detail.
In mid-March, NHS England gave both trusts the go ahead to proceed. Subsequently both legacy Trust Boards formally agreed to merge, and both legacy Councils of Governors agreed that the Trust Boards had been diligent in their decision making. Finally, the Minister of State for Health approved the trusts’ application to merge.
Examples of services for patients working differently
As a result of the two legacy trusts coming together to create a new NHS trust, services are working differently.
One example of this is the service provided by the specialist dementia and delirium team. The teams from the legacy trusts have come together to provide a service across Somerset and improve support for patients and colleagues. Colleagues from Yeovil Hospital have led the way with a team of specialist dementia and delirium professionals that has supported patients on the inpatient wards at Yeovil Hospital for the last eight years. Last year a similar service was set up in our community hospital inpatient units and the wards at Musgrove Park Hospital. Coming together has enabled the team to strengthen its knowledge and resilience as one team for Somerset, which will benefit patients with dementia and their families.
People who are homeless or who sleep rough can potentially only live until their mid-40s – around 30 years less than average. Our homeless and rough sleepers service is working together with teams across both our legacy trusts, and the wider Somerset healthcare system, to bridge the gaps and ensure this group of patients get equal access to the physical and mental health care they need.
The maternity teams from both legacy trusts were one of the first teams to come together under a single leadership team, introducing joint roles and shared pathways to provide a more equitable service across Somerset. Together they are tackling recruitment challenges, supporting colleagues to progress, and using our resources in the best possible way to provide the right care at the right time to our women and pregnant people.