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CMA clears Foundation Trust hospitals merger

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has cleared the proposed takeover of Heatherwood and Wexham Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Heatherwood and Wexham) by Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Frimley Park).

Frimley Park and Heatherwood and Wexham provide a wide range of NHS services to patients in Hampshire, Surrey, and Berkshire.

The CMA analysed the merger on the basis of its impact on competition to attract patients for both inpatient and outpatient services, and to provide both elective and emergency services for commissioning bodies. It examined evidence provided by the hospitals and a number of third parties, including Monitor, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), NHS England Specialised Commissioning Teams, other NHS hospitals, the Care Quality Commission, patients and patient groups, and local representatives. The majority of third parties supported the merger. Monitor told the CMA that in its view the merger represents the best available solution to improve patient services at Heatherwood and Wexham.

The CMA's investigation looked at whether the merger is in the overall interest of patients and found that the merger will not lead to a material reduction in competition between hospitals in the area or loss of choice for patients, CCGs or NHS England. It noted that there are a number of other strongly-performing NHS hospitals located nearby which offer similar services, including Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Ashford and St. Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Surrey County Hospital, and the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital.

In summary, the CMA did not believe that the merger will lead to a material reduction in the quality of services for patients (including clinical factors such as outcomes, infection rates and mortality rates and non-clinical factors such as waiting times and patient experience) and will not materially reduce the hospitals’ incentives to innovate and improve their services.