Why are we exploring a merger?


Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WSHT) and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH) are proposing to become one trust in April 2021.

Bringing together the best of both trusts together, the new organisation will invest in innovation and expertise to make Sussex a leader in healthcare excellence.

WSHT and BSUH have been working together under a shared leadership for nearly four years. In April 2017, the trusts entered into a joint-management contract.

Since then, BSUH has become the fastest improving acute hospital trust in England and is now rated Good overall and Outstanding for caring by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

WSHT reached new heights too. In October 2019, the trust became the first non-specialist acute hospital trust in to be awarded Outstanding in all the CQC’s key inspection areas.

Decision to merge

In July 2020, the WSHT and BSUH boards announced a decision to explore a merger. The move was influenced by their experience of working together through the Covid pandemic.

By sharing resources and best practice, the trusts ensured supplies of PPE for teams were maintained and expertise was spread to keep patients and staff safe.

Now, continued collaboration and mutual support are helping the trusts restore services for patients as swiftly and as safely as possible, while maintaining readiness for a second surge.

The boards considered a number of options, including reverting to independent organisations and forming a group, but each of these fell short of what a merger could offer.

Together, the trusts can unlock opportunities that individually they do not have the resources to take advantage of.

A single trust provides a new certainty for patients, staff and the hospitals, paving the way for service improvements that deliver the ambitions of the NHS long Term Plan and Sussex Integrated Care System (ICS).

In August 2020, NHSE/I approved a strategic outline case for merger. Work is currently ongoing to develop a full business case for submission in November 2020.

Subject to approval of the full business case, the boards propose to found a new acute university hospitals NHS foundation trust in April 2021.

A new trust

The new trust would run five hospital sites and employ around 20,000 staff, caring for 1.8 million people in Sussex, with a budget of £1.2 billion.

The main hospitals are in Brighton, Haywards Heath, Worthing, Shoreham and Chichester, with numerous patient services also run from satellite sites and community settings.

The trust would cover all West Sussex, Brighton and Hove and East Sussex for trauma; and all East Sussex, Brighton and Hove and areas of West Sussex for cancer and neuro-surgery.

Around a million patients in Brighton and Hove, West Sussex and parts of East Sussex would be served by the trust’s district general hospital services.

The scale of the new organisation and its combined resources would provide a number of significant benefits for patients, public and staff.

Better for patients

  • Continued commitment to always improving care through Patient First approach

  • Safeguarding local delivery of acute services in Sussex, such as A&E and maternity care

  • Development of all existing specialties, such as cancer, paediatrics and trauma

  • Development of more specialist services in Sussex, reducing travel to other areas

  • More integrated care, improving patient experience and access to services

  • Stronger support for population health, preventative care and NHS Long Term Plan

Better for staff

  • Better career opportunities for staff, supporting retention and recruitment

  • Clear leadership, governance and structures to improve organisational responsiveness

  • Investment in Patient First to empower staff at every level to make improvements

  • Enhanced education, training, research and innovation opportunities

  • Strengthened support networks for LGBTQ+, BAME and other staff groups

  • Improved health and wellbeing programme to support a highly engaged workforce

Better for Sussex

  • A financially secure acute hospital trust accountable to its members

  • Investment in new and existing hospital services, according to local need

  • A commitment to reducing energy, waste, pollution, plastic and carbon emissions

  • An NHS employer of choice for nearly 20,000 people

Clinical excellence

In the coming months, teams at WSHT and BSUH, will be working together to develop an ambitious new clinical strategy.

The aim is to embed clinical excellence and innovation at the heart of the new organisation and ensure it delivers the services our patients need and ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan.

The process starts with a steadfast commitment that the new trust will continue to invest in:

  • All services and specialties delivered by WSHT and BSUH, including those at non-acute sites

  • 24/7 A&E, emergency care and maternity services at all current locations

  • Playing a leading role in regional networks (e.g. trauma, cancer, stroke)

  • Developing all existing WSHT and BSUH specialist centres (e.g. cancer, paediatrics, trauma)

  • Partnering with Brighton & Sussex Medical School to offer teaching hospital education

The strategy will be developed through a series of phases, guided by a consistent set of principles, including:

  • Patient First

  • Clinically led

  • Effective engagement

  • Clear strategic boundaries

  • Best use of innovation and technology

  • Supporting service recovery

Phase one has begun and will continue until 31 March 2021.

A merger of equals

The merger of WSHT and BSUH is a union of equals, driven by the trusts’ shared Patient First ambition to continually improve patient services and quality of care.

The merger is not driven by a need to save money or reduce staffing. In fact, both trusts have a proud track record of investing in patient services, growing their workforce and protecting services from privatisation.

The full business case will set out ambitious plans for service development and improvement. It will also confirm strategic boundaries to provide important reassurance to local communities that key district general services, such as A&E and Maternity, will not be endangered by the merger.