The NHS Long Term Plan’s emphasis upon integrated care and reduced costs has seen several CCGs enter into merger proposals.
Eight Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) in Lancashire and South Cumbria have announced that they will merge into one CCG by April 2021, and will begin their preparations in 2020. The CCGs included in the plans are Morecambe Bay, West Lancashire, Fylde and Wyre, East Lancashire, Greater Preston, Chorley, South Ribble, and Blackburn, which are all currently covered by a single Integrated Care System (ICS).
Executive Lead for Commissioning, Andrew Bennett, commented that:
“We’ve been working on a place-based approach to commissioning over the past two years, building on the best work undertaken by local organisations to integrate care in neighbourhoods and local areas. We have also acknowledged that at times, commissioning activity has been fragmented and a single CCG will allow us to take a collective approach to setting standards and outcomes.”
The move comes as four acute trusts in the region reported a combined deficit of £133 million last year. The changes will also help to progress the vision in the NHS Long Term Plan to roll out Integrated Care Systems (ICS) across the whole of England by 2021, with each typically served by a single merged CCG. It is hoped that this will help to meet the requirement that CCGs reduce administration costs by 20% by 2020/21.
Executive Director of Finance and Investment, Gary Raphael, commented that:
“To get to some of the really tricky decisions to meet the requirements of the long-term plan is to break this glass ceiling and we think the way to do this is to move from eight CCGs to one. The CCG needs to be more about strategic planning, capital funding, the digital agenda and such like… We think we can get a higher level of unity of decision making as commissioners.”
Mr Raphael confirmed that major job losses were not envisaged, and that many people would be transferred to the integrated care partnerships working in the region. However the plans could prove controversial in several areas; in July 2019 Central Lancashire GPs rejected a proposal to merge several CCGs, and Blackburn is currently served by a single local authority.
For further information, see the Health Service Journal.