Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust to explore a potential merger

The Boards of Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Yeovil Hospital FT) and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (Somerset FT) have agreed to develop a strategic case that that sets out a proposal to potentially merge organisations and create one single NHS provider trust for Somerset in order to better support the health and care needs of the population.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of Somerset FT, said: “Our starting point is that we want to support people in Somerset to stay healthy; to provide excellent health services to everyone when they need them wherever they live in the county; and to work with other health partners, local authorities and the third sector to provide joined up health and social care support to our patients. We believe, based on the work we have done so far, that we will be better able to deliver this as one organisation and our strategic case will explore this.”

Jonathan Higman, chief executive of Yeovil Hospital FT, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to explore how the expertise and experience of our two trusts can potentially be combined to make care in Somerset better than ever before.

“By bringing together the county’s mental health and learning disability services, community services, acute hospital services, and some the county’s primary care, we believe we can significantly improve people’s experience of NHS care, making it more accessible and responsive, and enable our staff to deliver the care they aspire to.”

Both trusts have experience of integration. Yeovil Hospital FT’s Symphony Programme brought together primary care and acute hospital services to benefit people with complex needs, and provide greater support to people to manage their own conditions. Somerset FT was created from a merger of its legacy organisations in order to integrate community, mental health, learning disability services and acute hospital services. Both trusts have also participated in the countywide the Fit for My Future programme that brings all health and social care organisations together with a focus on the needs of the whole population and the merged organisation will support this vision.

“During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic we saw very clearly what we can achieve when we work together to meet the needs of the people of Somerset. Working together, and with social care and the voluntary sector, we expanded services quickly and were able jointly to ensure we had the capacity within our hospitals to care for patients with COVID-19, services in the community to support people at home, and additional mental health services to support those struggling with their mental health,” said Peter Lewis.

Jonathan Higman said: “The potential creation of one NHS provider organisation is an important step in the journey to create an integrated care provider in the county, which could oversee the planning and delivery of an even wider range of health and care services to our population in the future.

“There is a great deal of work for our two trusts to do, and we look forward to working with Peter and our Somerset FT colleagues in the coming months to deliver on our shared ambition of providing the best possible care for the people of Somerset.”

Late last month it was announced that Pat Flaherty, chief executive of Somerset County Council, and James Rimmer, chief executive of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, have been appointed as the system leader and senior responsible officer of the shadow integrated care system for Somerset.

James Rimmer, Chief Executive, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We know that to truly make a difference to the lives of people in Somerset we need to change the way we work. It is heartening to see Yeovil Hospital FT and Somerset FT embracing the opportunities working closer together offer us to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone.”

Pat Flaherty, Chief Executive of Somerset County Council and Chair of the shadow Somerset Integrated Care System, said: “We’ve seen the clear benefits of health and care organisations working much closer together, as one in Somerset. This is therefore a welcome development and the proposals will no doubt further improve lives for our residents and communities.”

Yeovil Hospital FT and Somerset FT will develop the joint strategic case by the end of March 2021 for consideration by both organisations Trust Boards and the regulator NHS England and Improvement.