MAJOR plans to merge Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust with Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, have been abandoned.

The decision follows a six-month ‘pause’ in the merger process in April for re-assessment due to the Royal Surrey’s deteriorating financial position.

A joint statement released by both trusts last Friday said: “Earlier this year it was jointly agreed to pause the proposed merger until after the end of quarter two, at which time the strategic position would be reviewed again.

“Having reached the end of quarter two, Royal Surrey’s board has undertaken a self-assessment in relation to the proposed merger and potential benefits. Having carefully considered the changes to the overall NHS landscape while the merger was paused it feels the opportunity to deliver greater benefits to patient care and efficiency savings exist within the Surrey Heartlands Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) and wider healthcare networks.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, Royal Surrey’s board has concluded it no longer believes merging offers the greatest opportunity for long-term financial and operational stability and feels that it is unlikely that this position will change in the foreseeable future.”

Ashford and St Peter’s board did not undertake a similar self-assessment but in the light of the Royal Surrey’s position, has accepted the merger will now not proceed. It said it recognised the potential value and patient benefits offered by the Surrey Heartlands STP and was absolutely committed to playing a “significant and collaborative role in that plan” alongside the opportunities presented through other strategic partnerships.

Both trusts said they were committed to continuing to work together within the Surrey Heartlands STP, building on the “positive relationships” they have developed.

They will also use the work completed as part of the lengthy proposed merger process, which launched in 2014, to ensure “the greatest outcomes for patients are delivered”.

The five-year plan for the Royal Surrey from 2014 estimated it would have a deficit of £1.4million in the financial year 2016/17 but it has risen to around £11.5million.

Both trusts have spent £2.2million each progressing the merger transaction, but Ashford and St Peter’s deficit for 2016/17 is £167,000.

Responding to the announcement, Kate Scribbins, chief executive of Healthwatch Surrey, said:“Changes to plans as significant as this will inevitably cause anxiety amongst some patients. While we recognise the importance of aligning plans with the Surrey Heartlands STP, it is vital people are consulted at all stages as plans develop, not just at the end once minds are made up.

“We would urge the trusts and all involved in the STP to ensure patients, their families and carers remain at the heart of their plans and decisions going forward.

“If people have concerns about this or any other health local health and social care issue, we would encourage them to contact us on 0303 303 0023 or via our webstie at”