The merger of Bedford Hospital NHS Trust and the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has been completed today, creating a new Foundation Trust, caring for a population of around 620,000 people in and around Bedfordshire.
Each hospital will keep its name, and Bedford Hospital will retain key services including A&E, Obstetrics-led Maternity and Paediatrics.
The new Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust takes responsibility for managing services at both sites and will bring together a combined workforce of approximately 8,000 staff. It will be the largest NHS employer in Bedfordshire.
In a statement, the Trust said, “The merger is incredibly important for the local health economy, but it is understandable that COVID-19 activity has naturally taken priority for the entire NHS.
“Providing consistent leadership within an integrated Trust is essential as we navigate through uncharted territory. The merger will help in building a more resilient workforce, working together as one Trust to provide the best care for our patients in very difficult circumstances.”
The two hospitals have worked closely together for a number of years in various clinical services such as Neonatal Intensive Care, Vascular surgery, Oral and Maxillofacial (OMF), Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) and Stroke services.
David Carter, Chief Executive at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said, “Today is a significant moment for healthcare in Bedfordshire, with the creation of a single NHS Foundation Trust to provide secondary care services for the people of Bedfordshire.
“The current global health crisis with COVID-19 (coronavirus) remains our initial priority for all staff across both hospital sites, but as a single, larger organisation we are able to create a more resilient workforce to provide the best possible patient care to the increasing population of Bedfordshire and beyond and also have more resilience to respond to the current COVID-19 situation.
“It has been a longer than anticipated journey to get to this point and we’re proud to have officially merged and are looking forward to achieving the ambitions we have for Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as soon as we move out of these incredibly challenging times.”
As part of the merger process, CEO of Bedford Hospital Trust (BHT), Stephen Conroy has stepped down, after seven years in the position.
In a letter to friends and colleagues, Mr Conroy looked back over his 45 year career and the nine years he’s spent in Bedford.
“After a long and varied career in health (acute, community and primary), local government and social care and consultancy, I first came to Bedford on a three month secondment in 2011 as Director of Service Development.
“I didn’t know the hospital at all and had only been to Bedford once in my life when I fell asleep on the train after a staff Christmas party in London and woke up in Bedford at 2am with no trains going south.
“But it was clear to me very quickly that Bedford Hospital has a very special place in the hearts of local people. It’s hard to pin down exactly what makes BHT so exceptional, but there are several elements to mention: a proud history, the commitment of the staff to patient care and quality, the loyalty of staff to the hospital, the in-house catering, cleaning and portering services, the ‘family culture’ and the enduring support of our external stakeholders – many of whom have been associated with the hospital for many years.
“For example, Brian Woodrow, Ken Williams and Ruth Harrison who were all present at the first meeting of Bedford Hospital NHS Trust in 1991. Not forgetting Helen Nellis and Rob Oakley who later served on the Board, and the perpetual support of the Whitbread family.
“All these people are passionate supporters and patrons of the hospital and still make an enormous contribution.”
Mr Conroy paid tribute to a number of people who have supported him throughout his career in Bedford, including Nina Fraser, John McNamara, Jeff Worrell at the Region and Richard Fuller MP.
“I have always said that I was willing to step down at the point of merger as this was both the best strategy for the sustainability of the services and it also provides me with the opportunity to take a well-earned break after a 45 year career.”
Paying tribute to Stephen Conroy, Mohammad Yasin, MP for Bedford and Kempston said, “I want to express my heartfelt thanks for Stephen’s many decades of remarkable public service to the NHS, Bedford Hospital and the wider community.
“His stewardship of Bedford Hospital through austerity cuts and the difficult merger process with Luton and Dunstable ensured that our hospital retained and improved its services for the people of Bedford and protected its long-term future.
“I thank him for his 45 years of dedicated public service and wish him well for the future.”