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Competition authority clears Birmingham mega merger

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Will the merger of two foundation trusts in Birmingham improve patient services?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has cleared the proposed merger between University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) and Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT).

The merger will create a trust with a turnover of more than £1.4bn, which is larger than any existing trust. The CMA, which started its investigation in July, concluded that the merger will benefit patients. The phase one investigation was launched after concerns over competition were raised for some elective specialties.

Evidence was given by NHS Improvement, which told the CMA that HEFT had been struggling with management problems since 2012. In 2015 UHB took over HEFT’s executive team and, as a result, waiting times had gone down and there had been improvements in patient care.

The CMA found that the merger could reduce quality for patients in 25 specialties by reducing patient choice from three competing trusts to two.

However, since the patient benefits are substantial, CMA approved the merger without starting a phase two investigation. This is the first time it has cleared a hospital merger on the strength of a phase one investigation.

CMA’s Kate Collyer said: ‘Competition currently plays a limited role in the NHS, as health commissioners and regulators have instead emphasised co-operative working to handle growing demand for NHS services.’

Further information

Competition and Markets Authority: University Hospitals Birmingham/Heart of England merger inquiry

Wellards: Birmingham merger goes to competition authority