Bedford Hospital is set to be taken over by Luton & Dunstable next year.
In a move which was revealed exclusively by the Times& Citizen online on Tuesday, the two organisations will become a single foundation trust.
However health bosses say that they are treating the move as a merger not a takeover, and that key services such as A&E, maternity and paediatrics will remain at both sites.
“This is good news,” Bedford Hospital chief executive Stephen Conroy told theTimes & Citizen.
“We’re at the early stages of this, and a full business case won’t be approved until Christmas.”
He added: “A&E, maternity and paediatric services will remain on both hospital sites.
“This decision will also provide stability and will be the driver to provide the best possible hospital services for all our patients across the whole of Bedfordshire.”
Both Bedford and Luton hospital bosses claim that the move will bring stability at a time of uncertainy in local healthcare.
The entire local health system has been under review for several years, with plans varying from a merger between Bedford and Milton Keynes, a rumoured merger between Bedford and Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, and an ambitious scheme to merge the five main hospitals in Bedford, Kettering, Luton & Dunstable, Milton Keynes and Northampton.
There is also the Strategic Transformation Plan (STP) review, which is still ongoing and will mean more services are merged between Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes.
While Bedford Hospital has supported the plan, politicians have been more cautious.
Mayor of Bedford, Dave Hodgson, has demanded no backtracking”, and wants the retained services to include a full 24/7 A&E, plus a maternity unit which is led by consultants and not by midwives.
MPs Alistair Burt and Mohammad Yasin gave similarly guarded welcomes.
But not all staff were convinced.
One insider, who asked not to be named, said: “We’re not daft. It seems like Luton has the whip hand in this – their chief executive was appointed to run the STP, and there seem to be Luton Hospital templates in place of how this will work.”
>Elsewhere on this website, read the mayor’s challenge to hospital bosses, and our Q&A on the key points about the merger.