Hospitals merger starts today - chiefs are confident it will bring improvement to services despite widespread opposition. And there are five days left to comment on CCG merger plan!

  Posted: 01.04.20 at 10:36 by The Editor

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THE merger of three regional hospitals, Basildon & Thurrock, Mid Essex and Southend, into one new NHS Foundation Trust was completed today (Wednesday, 1 April).

The move was met with widespread opposition from residents, health groups and local councils and has been delayed a year after it was referred to the Health Secretary.

However, despite the concerns of campaigners and some senior clinicians who feared services would be reduced, staff numbers cut and residents across south Essex faced with massive transport issues as some specialist services were relocated to one of the three centres, he rubber-stamped the move and the new Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust came into being today.

Fears remain about the viability the scheme and the official launch of the Trust comes at a time when local services have been pressed as never before because of coronavirus. Critics of the merger worry that once the crisis is over more rationalisation of care will mean a reduced service and more problems for those in need of treatment.

And the financial management of all three hospitals has been widely criticised. At the last count before going into the end of the financial year yesterday Basildon & Thurrock was expected to be £9.8 million over its planned end-of-year deficit of £12.2million. The three hospitals together are set to exceed a planned combined £110.6million deficit.

Critics fear the administration - which includes 12 executive directors - will not be representative of the needs of local communities. There has also been criticism of the money paid to non medical staff - the new Trust’s chief executive Clare Panniker earns in the region of £250,000 a year for example, while several other directors get significant six figure salaries.

But the healthcare professionals remain confident their plan will be beneficial to the regions and today, Ms Panniker – who has been running the three hospital as their senior officer – and new Trust chairman Nigel Beverly issued a statement.

They say: “This is the culmination of more than four years of collaborative working which has already led to better clinical care for our patients, more career opportunities for our staff, and improved working with the wider health and care system in Mid and South Essex.

“We now have a new board in place and new governance arrangements.

“We fully appreciate that this news is not a priority at this incredibly difficult time, but it’s important to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of our teams which have got us to this point.

“They are continuing to work tirelessly to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak, demonstrating the amazing teamwork across our hospitals. For now, all of our efforts are focused on caring for the patients who need us.

“As ever, we will keep you fully updated, and look forward to realising the benefits of working together as one of the largest NHS Trusts in the country.”

Meanwhile there are just five days left for the public to register their comments on another proposed healthcare merger - the plan to run south and mid Essex's five clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) as one organisation. Again there has been widespread opposition to the move, particularly in Thurrock where Thurrock Council has been among those concerned about the impact of losing a bespoke Thurrock CCG.

The consultation closes on 5 April. You can make your views known Here.

AT 9am today (Wednesday 1 April) Thurrock Coronavirus Community Action (TCCA), a partnership led by Thurrock Council working with Stronger Together an...