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Patient benefit vital for hospital mergers


16 July 2013

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Hospitals must now prove the clinical benefits to patients if they wish to merge, the Competition Commission (CC) has claimed. 
A review into the proposed merger between The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust concluded that it would reduce choice for local patients. 
If the hospitals were to merge the trusts would lost an “important incentive” to improve quality and attract patients, the CC said. 

Hospitals must now prove the clinical benefits to patients if they wish to merge, the Competition Commission (CC) has claimed. 
A review into the proposed merger between The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust concluded that it would reduce choice for local patients. 
If the hospitals were to merge the trusts would lost an “important incentive” to improve quality and attract patients, the CC said. 
The CC’s survey evidence has shown that patients—as well as GPs making referrals on their behalf—see the hospitals as the closest alternative to each other.
Patients would lose choice in more than 55 inpatient and outpatient services, the review showed. 
Roger Witcomb, Chairman of RBCH/PH Inquiry Group and CC Chairman, said: “This is the first NHS merger which we have looked at and whilst we are conscious that there are important aspects of the NHS that distinguish it from other sectors, health policy has for some time been that patient choice has an important role in incentivising hospitals to maintain and increase quality. 
“The fact that they stand to gain or lose from patients voting with their feet is important.” 
The CC will now be considering evidence that the merger would provide benefits for patients. 

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