• Fifteen CCGs confirm to HSJ their merger has been approved
  • But NHSE declines to say which applications have been approved, rejected or delayed
  • Shropshire CCG and Telford and Wrekin CCG merger rejected

NHS England has approved a first tranche of clinical commissioning group mergers for April 2020, but has declined to say which ones.

A series of approvals were issued on Tuesday, and 15 CCGs in the south west, north west and north east have confirmed to HSJ they received positive decisions.

However, at least 55 groups applied for merger approval ahead of a September deadline, and as HSJ went to press, NHSE has declined to say whether any others have been approved; and which have been rejected or delayed.

CCGs have been asked to slash their running costs by 20 per cent, and it is hoped widespread mergers will improve efficiency and provide savings.

The CCGs which have confirmed to HSJ their application was successful are:

  • Bath and North East Somerset CCG, Swindon CCG and Wiltshire CCG;
  • Eastern Cheshire CCG, South Cheshire CCG, Vale Royal CCG and West Cheshire CCG;
  • Darlington CCG, Hartlepool and Stockton on Tees CCG and South Tees CCG;
  • Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield CCG and North Durham CCG; and
  • Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven CCG, Bradford City CCG and Bradford Districts CCG.

Many CCGs — including groups in Nottinghamshire, north Yorkshire, north central London, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Kent — this week told HSJ they were still waiting on decisions from NHSE/I.

At least one proposed merger — between Shropshire CCG and Telford and Wrekin CCG — was rejected by the regulator. In a joint statement, their respective chairs Julian Povey and Jo Leahy said: “We will continue to develop a single management structure across both CCGs and work to bring teams together over the coming months with a view to reapplying to become a single strategic commissioning organisation as soon as possible.”

Chief executive of the new B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire group Tracey Cox said: “Coming together as a single CCG will allow health and care providers in B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire to ensure we are reducing variation in the provision of services. We also want to concentrate on supporting people to stay healthy and tackle the causes of illness.

“This merger will also allow us to meet financial challenges, for example through economy of scale cost-savings and the streamlining of governance and administration which means we can invest more of our budget into frontline services.”

Accountable officer for the Cheshire CCGs Clare Watson said the merger “will enable us to strengthen our work as a single team to ensure the people of Cheshire are able to access consistently good care — wherever they live”.

Accountable officer for the Tees Valley and County Durham CCGs Neil O’Brien said: “Working together as two closely linked CCGs will help us to make the best use of our resources, leading to improvements in health and healthcare services. 

“We are working together to efficiently commission high quality services which are equally available to all local residents.”

In July, HSJ identified 86 CCGs proposing to merge in 2020. But in recent months GPs have rejected proposals for mergers of two CCGs in the north west and six CCGs in Staffordshire.

Meanwhile, in August, plans to merge eight north London CCGs were pushed back by a year.

*Updated at 3.35 p.m. 18/10/19 to change number of CCGs which had submitted merger applications to NHSE/I to 55 after recieving responses from six more CCGs.