Merger and post-merger integration at Oxford University Hospitals: mixed-methods evaluation and lessons learned
Maile EJ., Mitra M., Ovseiko P., Dopson S.
Purpose: Hospital mergers are common in the United Kingdom and internationally. However, mergers rarely achieve their intended benefits and are often damaging. This study builds on existing literature by presenting a case study evaluating a merger of two hospitals in Oxford, United Kingdom with three distinct characteristics: merger between two university hospitals, merger between a generalist and specialist hospital and merger between two hospitals of differing size. In doing so, the study draws practical lessons for other healthcare organisations. Design/methodology/approach: Mixed-methods single-case evaluation. Qualitative data from 19 individual interviews and three focus groups were analysed thematically, using constant comparison to synthesise and interpret findings. Qualitative data were triangulated with quantitative clinical and financial data. To maximise research value, the study was co-created with practitioners. Findings: The merger was a relative success with mixed improvement in clinical performance and strong improvement in financial and organisational performance. The merged organisation received an improved inspection rating, became debt-free and achieved Foundation Trust status. The study draws six lessons relating to the contingencies that can make mergers a success: (1) Develop a strong clinical rationale, (2) Communicate the change strategy widely and early, (3) Increase engagement and collaboration at all levels, (4) Be transparent and realistic about the costs and benefits, (5) Be sensitive to the feelings of the other organisation and (6) Integrate different organizational cultures effectively. Originality/value: This case study provides empirical evidence on the outcome of merger in a university hospital setting. Despite the relatively positive outcome, there is no strong evidence that the benefits could not have been achieved without merger. Given that mergers remain prevalent worldwide, the practical lessons might be useful for other healthcare organisations considering merger.