Bath hospital merger plan prompts concern | BBC News (Somerset) | 16 August 2012

August 16, 2012

From BBC News in Somerset, 16 August 2012.

A plan to merge a specialist hospital in in Bath with the Royal United Hospital has raised concerns among people who use its services.

The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD) specialises in rheumatology, chronic fatigue syndrome and pain management.

The boards of both Bath hospital trusts have approved the intention to come together, beginning in spring 2013.

Users of the RNHRD say they want assurances services will be secured.

The RNHRD is also known as The Royal Mineral Water Hospital, or more commonly the Min.

Ingrid Van der Weide, of the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS), which uses the Min, said she was “worried” that services could be affected.

‘Good news'

“There is a lot of uncertainty,” she said. “We'll now begin to lobby the Royal United Hospital (RUH) and speak to the chief executive to ensure they listen to patients' concerns.”

Chief executive of RNHRD Kirsty Matthews said: “We are delighted that a way forward has now been proposed.

“The Min is a very small organisation, to remain viable and ensure services can be provided into the future we need to be part of a larger organisation.”

Dr Ashok Bhalla, medical director at the Min, said: “High quality patient care is our number one priority.

“During the transition period the Min remains fully operational. All patients are continuing to receive the high quality of care that we are renowned for.”

Chief executive at the RUH, James Scott, said: “The Min and RUH have worked closely together for some time to agree on the best way for the two hospitals to come together.

“This agreement in principle is good news for patients, staff and the healthcare community.”

The RNHRD, which admits patients from across the UK, has an annual budget of about £20m and a workforce of about 420.

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