IPSWICH health bosses will look for "quick wins" at the beginning of a merger with the troubled Colchester General.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of Ipswich Hospital, also said it is "likely" services will be centralised at one of the two sites and patients in both trusts would end up having to travel longer than usual for care.

The merge has been forced on the Colchester trust after it failed to come out of special measures for more than two years and is rated 'inadequate' by the Care Quality Commission.

Mr Hulme, whose hospital is ranked 'good', said: "One of the quick wins in terms of pressures, particularly in A&E and where the CQC have found specific issues, will be offering support to those areas immediately.

"We will share some of [our] good practice and staff to help them tackle some of the issues down there."

He added: "Over the next month or so we will conduct a very detailed piece of diagnostic work and by the end of May we will be in a position to have a clear plan about how services may start to look in the future."

The two trusts already work together on a number of services, such as vascular surgery, which is based in Colchester but serves patients in Ipswich and East Suffolk.

Mr Hulme added: "It is likely that the number of services we share between the two sites will increase over the next few years as the long-term partnership develops.

"It could be that certain services will be in one [hospital] rather than the other.

"In the long-term it may mean that some patients have to travel from Colchester to Ipswich and vice versa to make sure the highest quality of care is provided on one site.

"But it's very early days at the minute.

"If patients are required to move between the two centres, that will be done on very much on a clinical needs basis and only when we are absolutely sure the quality of care will be enhanced."

Health campaigners have broadly welcomed drastic move.

Dr Tom Nutt, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Essex, said: "We know from talking to patients and carers that the quality of care at Colchester has been mixed in recent years, and it’s important that the new partnership builds on the good care as well as addressing the areas where weaknesses have been identified."

Tony Durcan, Royal College of Nursing senior officer for Essex, added: "The RCN looks forward to working with both trusts to ensure our members are fully engaged in the process of introducing the new arrangements.

"We will also push to ensure care is delivered locally and the A12 doesn’t become a corridor or barrier between both hospital sites."