About the merger
Western Sussex Hospitals (WSHT) and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) joined forces on 1 April 2021 to create a new NHS Foundation Trust for our region: University Hospitals Sussex.
Bringing the best of both trusts together, the new organisation will invest in innovation and expertise to make Sussex a leader in healthcare excellence and improve services for local people.
Before the merger, WSHT and BSUH had been working together under a shared leadership for nearly four years under a management agreement signed in April 2017.
During that time, BSUH became the fastest-improving acute hospital trust in England, emerging from special measures and earning a Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating of Good overall and Outstanding for caring.
WSHT reached new heights too. In October 2019, the trust not only maintained the Outstanding rating it was awarded in 2016 but also became the first non-specialist acute hospital trust in to achieve the top grade 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 the two trusts’ experience of working together through the Covid pandemic. By sharing resources and best practice, they ensured supplies of PPE for teams were maintained and expertise was shared to keep patients and staff safe. And continued collaboration and mutual support helped the trusts begin to restore services for patients as swiftly and as safely as possible as Covid case numbers reduced.
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 and the two trusts submitted a full business case in November 2020.
The application to merge was approved at the end of March 2021.
A new trust: University Hospitals Sussex
University Hospitals Sussex employs nearly 20,000 people across five main hospital sites in Sussex, and has an operating budget of more than £1 billion.
It runs seven hospitals in Chichester, Worthing, Shoreham, Haywards Health and Brighton and Hove, as well as numerous community and satellite services. The trust is responsible for all district general acute services for Brighton and Hove, West and Mid Sussex and parts of East Sussex. It also provides specialised and tertiary services across Sussex and parts of the South East, including neuroscience, arterial vascular surgery, neonatology, specialised paediatric, cardiac, cancer, renal, infectious diseases and HIV medicine services.
The scale of the new organisation and its combined resources provides 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
In the coming months, teams at University Hospitals Sussex, 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
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 has not been 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 for the merger has set out ambitious plans for service development and improvement. It also confirmed strategic boundaries to provide important reassurance to local communities that key district general services, such as A&E and Maternity, are not endangered by the merger.