• Report calls for merging CCGs to maintain their link to “place”
  • “Unbiased view” of commissioners will be needed in integrated systems
  • CCGs have embedded clinical leaders in the current structure, which “must be maintained”

Clinical commissioning groups’ “unique strengths” should not be brushed aside in the development of system working and other approaches to integrated care, the CCG representative body said today.

A new report from NHS Clinical Commissioners, the independent membership body for CCGs, has called on NHS leaders to make sure positive contributions from its members are retained in integrated care systems.

Under the NHS long-term plan, England is expected to be covered by ICSs by April 2021. There will also be primary care networks of GPs and other community services across the country. The changes “will typically involve a single CCG for each ICS”, the LTP said, whereas currently many have multiple.

CCGs “will become leaner, more strategic organisations that should support providers to partner with local government and other community organisations”, it added.

NHSCC’s new report, shared exclusively with HSJ, identified CCGs’ “key strengths” that the NHS should maintain within the new structures.

CCGs must not lose their “tangible ‘place’ level links and responsibilities,” the report said. They have built up links with local government and others “in their place”. As they merge, “their important work at place level should not be lost”.

The LTP emphasised the importance of providers and commissioners collaborating in ICS. NHSCC’s report recognised the importance of this, but said: “Having an unbiased view is crucial.

“CCGs can make sure providers are doing the right thing for their population as they’re the only ones without vested interest. Their voices within systems must be heard.”

The report also called for all types of clinicians, not just GPs, to be involved in the decision making process at each level of the new integrated systems. “CCGs have been successful in embedding clinical leaders and the expertise, credibility, and better health outcomes this brings,” the report explained. “This must be maintained as we move to more system working.”

Graham Jackson, NHSCC co-chair, said the report shows why CCGs remain “valuable to our health and care system, and why it is so important to keep the unique strengths of clinical commissioners as we move into the NHS’ next phase”.

“Our members will be working differently but it is imperative to ensure that clinical leadership and decision making is maintained within the commissioning function at all levels,” he added.