• CCGs will apply to NHSE/I for permission to merge in April 2021
  • Combined, they serve 813,000 people in the West Midlands
  • 74 CCGs are set to merge this year

GPs have voted to merge three West Midlands clinical commissioning groups, HSJ has learned. 

South Warwickshire, Warwickshire North, and Coventry and Rugby CCGs will now apply for approval from NHS Improvement/England, with a view to merging in April 2021. 

The three CCGs serve a population of 813,000 people and have a budget of £1.4bn between them. It is hoped a merger will reduce “structural barriers” and remove “competing priorities”,  a paper sent to the Warwickshire North and Coventry and Rugby CCGs stated last May.  

Member GP practices in Warwickshire North and Coventry and Rugby voted in favour of the merger over a two-week period, starting at the end of last month. They rejected the two alternative options, which were appointing a joint management team across the three bodies and doing nothing.  

South Warwickshire’s member practices voted in favour of a full merger back in June 2019. 

Warwickshire North and Coventry and Rugby CCGs already have a shared management team and have been working together since April 2017.  

A spokeswoman for the merging groups told HSJ they have not yet picked a location for their headquarters and do not yet know if any jobs will be lost as they combine. 

The three CCGs’ accountable officers issued a joint statement about the merger. Adrian Stokes, for the Coventry and Rugby and Warwickshire North CCGs, and Gillian Entwistle, for South Warwickshire CCG, called the GPs’ vote “decisive,” adding: “We believe that this is the best outcome for our population, our practices and our health system, allowing us to most effectively work together to deliver the goals of the NHS long-term plan and improve health care for all the residents of Coventry and Warwickshire.  

“We are grateful to all our GP member practices and stakeholders who have taken the time to be involved in this process and given us their support and feedback.” 

Dozens of CCGs are set to join forces from April 2020, after gaining approval from NHSE/I. The total number of groups will drop from 191 to 135 — a reduction of 29 per cent.  

In 2018, NHS England asked CCGs to reduce their operating costs by a fifth by 2021. It is hoped mergers will help commissioners streamline operations and cut their costs. 

The mergers also align with the long-term plan, which stated each integrated care system area should typically host a single CCG. The plan said: “CCGs will become leaner, more strategic organisations that support providers to partner with local government and other community organisations.”