WORKFORCE: The chair and accountable officer of Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group have temporarily “stepped away” from their posts while NHS England conducts a probe into the group’s leadership, the CCG confirmed this afternoon.

Phil Jennings, Wirral CCG chair, and Abhi Mantgani, its accountable officer, have moved aside. NHS England’s regional operations director in the North, Jon Develing, is to step in as interim accountable officer of the commissioning group.

These developments follow an intervention last week by Frank Field, the MP for Birkenhead who sent a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt criticising the relationship between “senior members” of the CCG and Wirral University Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust and calling for an inquiry into the matter.

The CCG said in a statement: “We can confirm that following a number of concerns raised with regards to the senior leadership at the CCG, NHS England are carrying out a full and thorough capability and capacity review which will investigate all of the issues raised.

“NHS Wirral CCG are cooperating fully with NHS England and have voluntarily requested the support of NHS England whilst the review is carried out.

“We can also confirm that the accountable officer and chair have volunteered to temporarily step away from their duties whist the review takes place.

“In terms of interim arrangements, Jon Develing, regional director of operations and delivery NHS England North, has been asked to support the CCG as interim accountable officer and [Wirral CCG assistant clinical chair] Dr Peter Naylor will take up the role of acting chair.

“We would like to assure local people that this will not impact on local service delivery and we are committed to ensuring that the delivery of excellent healthcare services to local people remains to be our key focus.”

Mr Field claimed that relationships between individuals at the CCG and Wirral University Teaching Hospital Trust may have dented the “independence” of local health services and may have caused the CCG to take decisions “that do not reflect the will of all its members nor the public”.

He said in the letter that the trust had a “long history of not being able properly to manage its budget”.

His letter continued: “It regularly looks around for further funds to which it demands almost immediate access but is unprepared to make any efforts at reforming its own practices. 

“Closures, sackings and loss of patient services has been its traditional negative stance. The CCG therefore has the near impossible task of winning reform in the face of these negotiating tactics.”

A spokeswoman for the trust said last week that the “working and contracting relationship between Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust as a provider of health services and the CCG as a commissioner is conducted entirely in line with our constitution”.

She added: “All aspects of the trust’s relationship with the CCG have been conducted in an open and transparent way.

“The trust is committed to working in partnership with the CCG and other health partners to deliver high quality healthcare that meets the needs of the communities it serves and which reflect the changing needs of the population.”