Hospital bosses in South Tyneside and Sunderland are set to merge and become one joint body.
Earlier this year the South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group, which is made up City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, stated its intention to explore the possibility of becoming one Trust - and outlined the next steps for a strategic alliance which has now been in place since 2016.
Since January, leaders say they have been working closely with NHS regulators on the process involved to become one organisation.
Work has also taken place to prepare a draft ‘strategic case’, which has now been submitted for approval to NHS Improvement.
Both trusts must now await formal feedback from NHS Improvement which is expected over the summer - and is the vital first step in the process before the Trusts can embark on any wider discussion with staff and stakeholders.
Chief executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Ken Bremner, said: “I fully welcome the decisions taken by both trust boards.
“It marks a key milestone for our strategic alliance and sends a very important signal to our staff, patients and the public that we are fully committed to working together in the long-term and building stronger hospital services in both South Tyneside and Sunderland for the future.”
Subject to approval on the draft case, both trusts will begin work over the summer to develop a full business case due to be submitted later this year.