STRUCTURE: Four clinical commissioning groups in west Berkshire are considering merging into a single organisation amid concerns GPs’ time is being ‘wasted’ on board meetings.

Newbury and District, North West Reading, South Reading, and Wokingham CCGs are discussing the “feasibility and practicalities” of becoming a single organisation, according to papers presented to South Reading CCG’s governing board last month.

The merger proposal is being driven by “external financial pressures” in the local health economy, a shortage of GPs joining governing bodies, and a reduction in the statutory requirements necessary for the merger, the papers said.

Each CCG’s GP council will vote on the plan, which would see a new, single entity cover the same geographic boundaries as the four current CCGs. Member practices of North and West Reading CCG have already voted “unanimously” in favour of the new arrangement, its latest board documents said.

“All four CCGs are determined to retain the engagement we have built up with our practices, retaining the current four localities, councils of practices and devolved decision making, as well as the current numbers of GPs, nurse and practice managers,” it said.

“Their time currently wasted at CCG board meetings will be freed up for pathway redesign and senior manager’s time will be released from attending multiple board meetings, discussing the same things.”

The relevant health and wellbeing boards are also being consulted on the proposal.

The four CCGs already have a number of joint working arrangements in place, including joint back office functions.

Changes in CCG configuration require NHS England approval. Provisional discussions about the authorisation process have already taken place, Wokingham CCG has said.