STRUCTURE: Four clinical commissioning groups in west Berkshire have dropped proposals to merge into one organisation, HSJ has learned.

Newbury and District, North West Reading, South Reading, and Wokingham CCGs were in the process of discussing the “feasibility and practicalities” of becoming one body, according to papers presented to South Reading CCG’s governing board in September.

The merger proposal was 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 a merger, the papers said.

However, following a freedom of information request to see a copy of the groups’ draft merger proposal, the organisations disclosed that they had since decided to “withdraw” from creating a single CCG by April 2015.

Dr Cathy Winfield, chief officer for the Berkshire West CCGs, said: “The [clinical commissioning groups] will continue to explore optimal ways of working to ensure focus on the considerable challenges that Berkshire West health and social care faces.”

“NHS England gave permission for [the] Berkshire West CCGs to submit a late application to change their constitutions in September, instead of the national June 2014 deadline.

“This gave us a tight timescale to work to and we were not in a position to submit the application by the required date.”

The decision to withdraw from the merger process was made on 16 September, Dr Winfield added.

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

Dr Winfield said the four CCGs “currently have no plans” to look at a merger at a later date, but did not rule it out.