• Leeds CCGs’ joint governing body agrees to consult with members over proposed merger
  • Leeds West, Leeds North, and Leeds South and East could merge by April 2018
  • Letter sent to more than 100 member practices today
  • Expression of interest in a merger could be submitted to NHS England in September

Three clinical commissioning groups will consult with their members over a merger to create one of the country’s biggest CCGs, it has emerged today.

The joint governing body of Leeds’ three CCGs agreed yesterday to consult with its member practices throughout August on whether to merge the organisations.

HSJ understands the decision was made during the private part of the governing body in common meeting and a letter is being sent to more than 100 practices today.

If the members agree, Leeds West, Leeds North, and Leeds South and East CCGs will submit an expression of interest in merging to NHS England in September.

The merger would create one of the biggest commissioners in the country, covering a population of 860,000 with an allocation of more than £1bn.

HSJ understands local leaders hope to have the merger completed by April 2018.

After submitting the expression of interest, NHS England will review it and hold a “board to board” meeting with the CCGs before giving them the green light.

The three CCGs appointed Leeds West chief executive Philomena Corrigan as the single chief executive in April. A single strategic commissioning board for the city was set up in May but each CCG remained an independent statutory body.

Ms Corrigan said a lot of the hard work had already been done because the three CCGs had already integrated their staff since setting up the joint board.

Since the board was set up, around 20 staff have been redeployed to the West Yorkshire sustainability and transformation partnership, the local Leeds plan, system integration teams or supporting primary care.

Ms Corrigan said the merger would release more resources to tackle inequalities, reduce duplication of commissioning and integrate the three Leeds plans into one.

She added: “There are three or four big things we can deliver better as one organisation.

“One is the Leeds plan. It means we have got one coherent plan that every single organisation has signed off.

“Two is tackling health inequalities. At the moment, we have three different approaches about how we do that. We have all commissioned services in three different ways, so there is huge merit in looking at our resources.

“Another benefit is the financial benefit of not doing things three times. Reducing transaction costs will have huge benefits. It’s commissioning once for the city and not having disparity.”

HSJ revealed in November that the CCGs were exploring shared leadership arrangements as well as plans to set up an accountable care organisation.

HSJ understands the city is considering options that would integrate community, mental health, primary care and social care services.

These could form the basis of an ACO or an accountable care system, however Ms Corrigan said Leeds is concentrating on changing services rather than organisational form. She added: “If that leads to an ACO or ACS then fine, but that’s not the reason to do it.”