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Hospital mergers costly and ineffective, says think-tank

Hospital mergers costly and ineffective, says think-tank

NHS mergers are expensive and ineffective, think-tank The King’s Fund says in a report released today

NHS mergers are ineffective, think-tank The King’s Fund said in report released today.

During the past five years £2 billion has been spent on 12 hospital mergers, however the think-tank says there is “growing evidence” they do not deliver the intended benefits.

There is also little recognition of the disadvantages of creating larger, more complex organisations and evidence that they often act as a barrier to delivering service changes.

The report analysed 20 mergers from 2010-2015 and found there was often no clear rationale for a merger, with “serious weaknesses” in the assessment of alternative options and the articulation of the case for merger.   

Moreover, mergers can take four or five years to complete and “the process is complex, time-consuming and costly, with as many as 10 separate bodies involved,” the report said.

Ben Collins, Project Director at The King’s Fund and author of the report, added: “Recent NHS history is scattered with the remains of failed, or at least profoundly troubled, mergers. The £2 billion spent on 12 hospital mergers over the past five years contrasts with just £200 million so far made available to support the new models of care being rolled out across the country under the plans in the NHS five year forward view.

“Instead of promoting mergers, NHS leaders should focus on developing alternative solutions that address the underlying causes of the problems facing struggling hospitals,” Collins said.

Yet, in response Paul Healy, Senior Economic Advisor at NHS Confederation, said that while the report was a "useful analysis", ruling out mergers completely would be "short-sighted".

He said: “NHS leaders now rarely select mergers as their preferred choice because our members are becoming increasingly aware of the challenges it presents. It would be short-sighted, though, to rule out mergers altogether because the decision on how best to deliver care needs to be made locally. 

"It should be based on the needs of the local population using an informed analysis of the benefits and risks."


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