• GP members have rejected proposals for six-way merger of clinical commissioning groups in Staffordshire 
  • LMC had warned benefits of merger were “speculative” and claimed NHSE had driven proposals

GPs have voted against proposals to merge six clinical commissioning groups in Staffordshire, after being told the plans were “driven by NHS England”, HSJ has learned.

The CCGs’ shared management team outlined the intention to merge last year, but various concerns have been raised among the GP members.

The outcome of the vote is due to be formally announced after an extraordinary meeting this evening, but HSJ understands members in a clear majority of the CCGs have voted against the proposals.

The CCGs, which share an accountable officer and several other senior posts, declined to comment on the vote ahead of the meeting, and it is not clear whether they will now pursue the plans.

As reported in the Healthcare Leader, prior to the vote Paul Scott, chair of the North Staffordshire Local Medical Committee, advised his members to reject the merger.

He wrote in an email, seen by HSJ: “Much has been made of the potential benefits of having a single CCG in Staffordshire, yet few if any of these arguments hold true or are at best speculative.

“As your LMC we are concerned that a single larger CCG will be even harder to hold to account and that dedicated deprivation funding for our two northern Staffordshire (North Staffs and Stoke) CCGs will not be guaranteed medium term under a single CCG. There is also the merger of historical debts into one pan-Staffordshire fund…

“It is clear that the proposed merger is primarily driven by the national NHS England team and after careful consideration we have concluded that there is no potential net benefit for either patients or GP practices.”

He suggested a northern Staffordshire footprint would be more appropriate.

NHSE signalled the move to larger commissioning groups earlier this year, when it said in the long-term plan every area of the country should be covered by an “integrated care system” by 2021, and that this would “typically” involve a single CCG.

Earlier this week, HSJ revealed the national body was considering a stricter approach to mergers to drive the reduction of CCGs from 191 to just 40.

Alongside North Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, the other CCGs in the county are: South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula, East Staffordshire, Cannock Chase, and Stafford and Surrounds CCGs.

In a statement on behalf of all CCGs today, a spokesman said the commissioners would no longer be submitting an application to NHS England to merge but would continue to meet in common. 

The statement also revealed the membership of five out of six CCGs voted against the proposals. 

This story was updated at 15:00 on 20 September 2019 after commissioners published an updated statement.