Why have Ipswich and Colchester hospitals formed a partnership and what will it mean?

Nick Hulme is the chief executive of both Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, which have formed a part

Nick Hulme is the chief executive of both Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, which have formed a partnership. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Greater links between Ipswich and Colchester hospitals will provide better value for NHS money and improve care for patients, a new report states.

The two hospitals agreed to enter into a long-term partnership last year, and bosses are currently working on an outline business case which is due to be complete this summer.

As part of the plans, a number of scenarios are being considered: the merger of the two trusts with full or part integration of clinical services; an acquisition of one trust by another; or no change.

The Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board received an update on the project at its meeting this month.

Within the papers, the author writes: “A merger or acquisition would not necessarily require clinical services to move, but may mean that services could work together more closely, for example, sharing best practice in delivering high quality care.”

The report says the partnership was formed in response to “challenges faced by the local health systems”, which are likely to involve an aging and growing population, budget cuts, a depleting and retiring workforce and a shift in the way the public uses services.

The trusts have set out a number of “principles” which they will follow as they start to work in collaboration, such as the development of new specialist services where there is evidence that they will improve “access and/or outcomes” for patients.

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Bosses have promised to continue to provide A&E, acute medical care and maternity services at both sites, and to enhance teaching and training for clinical staff.

In working in partnership the two trusts will “make best use of our resources”, the report says, but they will move at a pace that “minimises disruption to services whilst maximising the delivery of benefits”.

The author of the papers also lists four objectives of the link-up, which are: to improve quality and patient outcomes; to deliver better value for money; to sustain and improve access to services to meet the needs of both populations; and to develop a sustainable, skilled workforce.

The partnership is an “integral element” of the Suffolk and North East Essex Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which details how health and social care services in these areas will change over the next years.

There are fears the tie could be detrimental to Ipswich as bosses may focus their efforts on supporting Colchester, which was placed in special measures by the health watchdog in 2013, but Nick Hulme, chief executive of both trusts, has previously batted away these concerns.

The Care Quality Commission has rated Ipswich as ‘good’.

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