Media Briefing Note: Competition Commission Decides Against NHS Hospital Merger

LONDON, 17 OCTOBER 2013 - The Competition Commission (CC) has announced that it is prohibiting the merger between The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

In a summary of its final report, the CC has confirmed that the merger would damage patients’ interests by eliminating competition and choice.

In a statement, released by the CC today, it said it had looked "in detail" at the proposals set out by the two trusts, taking full account of advice from Monitor to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the views of local commissioners. To view the report click here.

Christopher Hutton, a competition lawyer at Hogan Lovells said:

"It's clear that the CC thinks, as result of this merger, patients would lose choice across various overlapping services provided by the two NHS Foundation Trusts.  However, it is likely that, as Foundation Trusts are required to do more with less, other Foundation Trusts will seek to merge in order to cut costs and exploit synergies.  The CC's decision will therefore have wide reaching implications for any other Foundation Trusts wishing to merge in the future. In particular, Foundation Trusts will have to put forward a much stronger case to show that a merger is in the interests of patients before being allowed to proceed."

"The competition review of NHS hospital mergers is new to the UK, but it is commonplace in the US.  The CC has likely drawn on the US experience and adopted a similar method of analysing NHS hospital mergers to the US authorities."

This is the first merger between two NHS foundation trusts to be examined by the CC. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 gave UK competition authorities the power to investigate such mergers, and the ability to block mergers (or impose conditions on mergers) as they would in other industries.

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