Staff at hospitals in Burton and Derby have pledged crucial support for the long-awaited NHS Trust merger during a series of meetings about the move.
Hospital bosses spearheading the link-up between the Burton and Derby Trusts have said that the clinical teams consulted from both organisations have provided positive feedback following detailed discussions.
The proposed move will see Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust form a new combined trust, to be called the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust.
This will see the five hospitals under the two trusts come under the control of the new organisation, including Queen's Hospital, in Belvedere Road, Burton and the Royal Derby Hospital.
The other three community hospitals across the two trusts are Sir Robert Peel Community Hospital and Samuel Johnson Community Hospital, in Tamworth and Lichfield respectfully, and London Road Community Hospital, in Derby.
Organisers were required to present a patient benefit case, detailing exactly why the plans should go ahead.
For this, clinical teams from both hospital trusts were brought into the discussion to form key decisions on how they will operate following the merger.
Gavin Boyle, who has already been named as the prospective chief executive of the combined trust, and currently also holds the role at the Derby trust, described opinions over the merger as "very positive."
Mr Boyle said: "In all of this, it's all incredibly complicated but the thing that really matters is the clinical proposals.
"Those conversations between the clinical teams at both Burton and Derby have led to proposals around delivering the services in a better way.
"Those conversations are the most important parts in all of this, and that's what delivers the benefits for patients.
"It sounds strange to me, but a lot of organisations do the merger, then have the conversations about the clinical side afterwards. We thought that just seemed like the wrong way of doing it.
"We've put a lot of effort into getting people talking and developing their ideas before the merger and I think that's the right way to do it.
"Now, once we get through the gateway we've got a clear plan from day one about what we're going to do and how we can deliver those benefits."
The competitions and marketing authority gave the move the go ahead on March 15 after concluding that the benefits of the merger outweighed concerns about competition.
However, London-based NHS Improvement, a second watchdog group, asked for further cash assurances before they could award a crucial risk rating, which will then see the plans put to both boards and councils of governors.
Although a new trust was expected to form on Sunday, April 1, further information requested by the regulator will now delay the move until either June 1 or July 1, according to organisers.
Helen Scott-South, current chief executive of the Burton trust, who has already announced her plans to retire should the merger go ahead, said: "It's really important because these teams have been working together for two years.
"They are then going to be implementing these plans. I think the contact between the clinicians and the patient reference group is another important part.
"Because it's taking longer, we've been able to extend this process. If you rush something you don't get the spin-off benefits that you get from taking more time.
"That, we feel, along with the clinicians, is that it takes a while to form relationships and those relationships have been established and many of them are excellent.
"They're thinking about even more things to do together moving forward."
John Rivers, the current chairman for both Burton and Derby Trusts, added: "We've spoken at length with both sets of councils of governors in the trusts and during the course of the week we've had members with both trusts because we promised we would do that, whatever position we are in.
"I think the discussion with both of the trusts have been rightly on the clinical benefits - there was active support."
The Burton and Derby hospital trusts merger so far
Planning documents for the proposed merger were submitted at the end of 2017.
Earlier, in June 2017, it was announced at a Healthwatch meeting that the outline business case for the partnership of the organisations, with a recommendation to merge, was approved.
Fears have been raised by many people, particularly in Burton, that the hospital could lose services, including the accident and emergency department, but officials have insisted that this is not the case.
The Burton Mail, as well as the town’s MP Andrew Griffiths, joined the fight to keep it open.
At the Healthwatch meeting it was confirmed by bosses from both respective trusts, Helen Scott-South from Burton and Gavin Boyle from Derby, that the A&E department would not close.
A new trust will be formed, should the current plans go ahead, under a new combined title, 'University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust'.
The chairman will be John Rivers, the current chairman of both Derby and Burton trusts, and chief executive of Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Gavin Boyle, will take up the same role at the new trust.
Hospital bosses have previously revealed that Burton's Queen's Hospital could save almost £10 million next year if the merger goes ahead.
In March, 2018, the Competition and Markets Authority gave the move their approval, after ruling that benefits of the merger outweighed potential competition concerns.
The move was planned to be fully completed by Sunday, April 1, however this was delayed when NHS Improvement, a London-based watchdog, asked for further cash assurances.
Officials hope the new trust will launch on either June 1 or July 1.