• Devon’s two CCGs plan merger 
  • Proposal reportedly backed by NHS England
  • Merger planned for completion by April 2019

Two clinical commissioning groups in a financially struggling health economy are proposing to merge by April next year to enable them to “punch our weight”.

Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG and South Devon and Torbay CCG will decide on Thursday if they submit an “expression of interest” in merging the two organisations, as part of plans to form an integrated care system.

NEW Devon CCG had the biggest cumulative deficit in England at the end of 2016-17 – £120m, and recorded a £50m deficit in 2017-18.

However, this month the CCG improved its rating from “requires improvement” to “good”, while South Devon and Torbay CCG remains rated “requires improvement” by NHS England.

South Devon and Torbay’s cumulative deficit currently stands at £14.5m. 

Suggested benefits of the merger are:

  • Becoming a “more powerful” NHS commissioning body;
  • Increasing efficiency and reducing operating costs; and
  • “Leveraging” strategic and at scale commissioning.

The plan is backed by NHS England, which has a “clear expectation” that the organisations will merge by April 2019, according to both CCG’s board papers.

The regulator wants the area, most of which was part of the “success regime” programme, to be among the next batch of integrated care systems.

A merger would “demonstrate that we are serious about working in a more integrated way”, the CCGs say in their board papers.

If both CCGs’ governing bodies agree to the plan, a letter will be sent to Jennifer Howells, the NHS’s regional director for the south west, confirming the CCGs’ proposal.

In the letter, published ahead of the vote, the CCGs say: “We believe that becoming one will facilitate collaboration with our three local authority partners, provide a consistent approach for our providers, improve efficiency, and enable us to punch our weight on behalf of Devon people and our GP members.”

During 2017-18 the CCGs saved £4m by working more closely together, according to NEW Devon CCG’s annual report.

They have already merged the two executive teams into one and set up committees in common.

A merger and transitions team has been established, and input has been requested from other CCGs with recent merger experience.

The Devon sustainability and transformation partnership appointed Sophia Christie as interim chief executive and accountable officer of both CCGs in April, and last month named Dame Suzi Leather as chair of the STP.