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North Somerset integration plan hits the rocks

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Plans to create a new integrated foundation trust in North Somerset are looking increasingly unlikely to succeed due to the scale of the financial challenge involved, LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal has learned.

Weston Area Health Trust, North Somerset Community Partnership and North Somerset Council have been working on a plan to form an integrated care organisation since Weston’s board announced the trust was not viable in its current form last year.

A proposal submitted to NHS South of England earlier this year was rejected due to a gap in the finances and a revised plan was due to be submitted last week.

The preferred option is for the new organisation to become an NHS foundation trust.

However, in an email sent on behalf of the transition board, which includes representatives from all three organisations as well as local commissioners, council chief executive Graham Turner acknowledged this was proving difficult.

His email said: “Whilst the preferred option of the transition board would be to create a new integrated care organisation established as a new NHS foundation trust, work on the business plan has indicated that this is proving to be financially challenging so the board is looking again at all the other options too.”

A document presented to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee in July said other options included becoming part of one of the trusts in Bristol or Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust, or being run by an independent provider.

The document said in future Weston Hospital would focus increasingly on day case and outpatient surgery such as cataract operations, leading to a reduction in beds. However it said the hospital would keep a 24/7 accident and emergency service accepting blue light emergencies.

A council spokeswoman said it was “too soon to speculate” about which model will be most appropriate for providing integrated care.

Time is running out for Weston if the trust is to submit its foundation trust application to the Department of Health by the April 2013 deadline set out in the trust’s tripartite formal agreement. The SHA’s July board papers note a revision to this timetable may be required and discussions are ongoing.

A spokeswoman for Weston said: “All parties continue to be fully committed to the delivery of integrated care in North Somerset and are evaluating the organisational options that would support its delivery.”

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