FINANCE: A clinical commissioning group, which suffered a huge backlash from GPs after pulling £1.4m of enhanced services funding, has unveiled plans to pump £1.2m back into the region’s primary care.

Wirral CCG’s unpopular decision to axe the funding in April has been linked to its current leadership problems, according to local sources.

A month after the controversial decision, Wirral’s chair Phil Jennings and accountable officer Abhi Mantgani temporarily “stepped away” from their posts to allow NHS England to probe concerns about the CCG’s leadership.

According to the CCG’s August board papers, it intends to plough £1.2m freed up from the axed enhanced services into a scheme to relieve pressure on accident and emergency services by “transforming” primary care. This will include boosting in-house capacity at GP practices, a new GP visiting scheme and a “pharmacy first” initiative where patients can pick up some medications directly from pharmacists.

The funding aims to reduce ambulance demand by extending private transport for hospital referrals from GP practices, and will also pay for greater GP involvement in “integrated care coordination teams”.

Ivan Camphor, medical secretary of the Mid Mersey Local Medical Committee which strongly criticised the decision to cut enhanced services, described the new plan as a “huge turnaround for the better”.

James Kingsland, president of the National Association of Primary Care and a Wirral GP, said the move was part of a wider national trend of CCGs reinvesting money released from decommissioned enhanced services back into primary care.

He said he welcomed this as a GP, but that other providers might question why they were not being offered opportunities to deliver the new contracts.

“If you can justify it, fine, but I’d say a number of them are doing it specifically just to make sure money is returned to general practice, which I would applaud as a GP [but] question [it] as a policy adviser,” Dr Kingsland said. 

A spokesman for the NHS England Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral local area team said the review of Wirral CCG’s leadership was ongoing and a report would be “published in due course”.