STRUCTURE: Two clinical commissioning groups in Cheshire are planning to formally merge.

Vale Royal CCG and South Cheshire CCG intend to become a single organisation “following recent discussions between the governing bodies and membership”, their shared chief officer Simon Whitehouse said.

If the merger goes ahead it would be only the second CCG merger since they became statutory bodies in April 2013.

The Cheshire proposal comes despite indications that NHS England will not generally support CCG mergers. A proposed merger between Ashford CCG and Canterbury and Coastal CCG was dropped in December. The groups said there had been a “number of policy statements” that had made the case for mergers “more difficult”.

In his report to Vale Royal’s February governing body meeting, Mr Whitehouse said the proposal has been put forward to NHS England for consideration.

The CCGs have also begun informal discussions with their local authorities – Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council – but “no formal approach has been made for them to confirm their position”, the report said.   

A formal decision is not expected before the general election “due to the timescales and the work involved”, and the merger would not be completed until April 2016.

“There is more work to do in regards to demonstrating the reasons to support our case for change and we will need to formally consult with our local authority colleagues to ensure that they understand and are supportive of the proposal,” the report added.

“We will, of course, continue to work with our membership, NHS England, the local authority and other partners to ensure that there is clarity and agreement on any next steps.”

HSJ revealed in February last year that three CCGs in the North East – Gateshead, Newcastle North and East, and Newcastle West – had decided to merge. The move was approved by NHS England in April, and they are expected to join later this year.

Mr Whitehouse told HSJ: “South Cheshire CCG and Vale Royal CCG already work very closely to ensure that local health and social care services are accessible for patients and are joined up as much as possible.

“The CCGs already have a shared management team; working across and on behalf of both CCGs.

“These early discussions are exploring the possibility of even greater collaboration.”

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