Twenty clinical commissioning groups have been given the green light to merge from NHS England and NHS Improvement, HSJ can confirm. 

From April, six groups in south west London, six in south east London and eight in the Kent and Medway region will combine to serve populations of roughly 1.5 million, 1.9 million and 1.8 million respectively.

The Kent and Medway group must meet several conditions — including the approval of its constitution by NHSE/I — before they can form a single CCG.

The south west London groups were the first in the capital to announce they had been approved to merge. On Wednesday, the south east London group confirmed they had been given the go ahead to merge.

A clutch of north central CCGs are waiting to hear back from NHSE/I on their merger proposals, while groups in the north west and north east of London have delayed their mergers by a year.

Last week, the NHSE/I approved at least five mergers in the south west, north west and north east of England. Many other CCGs told HSJ they are still waiting for a decision from the regulator on their own applications to merge.

The latest CCGs to confirm their application was successful are:

  • Croydon CCG, Merton CCG, Kingston CCG, Richmond CCG, Sutton CCG and Wandsworth CCG;
  • Ashford CCG, Canterbury and Coastal CCG, Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG, Medway CCG, South Kent Coast CCG, Swale CCG, Thanet CCG and West Kent CCG
  • Bexley CCG, Bromley CCG, Greenwich CCG, Lambeth CCG, Lewisham CCG and Southwark CCG

Accountable officer for the successful south west London CCGs Sarah Blow told HSJ: “Coming together is the best way for us to re-invest resources into frontline health and care services for patients. 

“NHS England have now confirmed they have approved our application — we will therefore be progressing to merger on 1 April 2020.” 

Accountable officer for the six south east London CCGs Andrew Bland said: “In south east London, the ability to operate at multiple scales simultaneously is critical.

”Our new CCG represents a package of changes in our commissioning approach that will allow us to respond to the very different needs of our local populations at neighbourhood level; work in even greater partnership with our local authorities in each borough; and commission services for those patient pathways that span the entire south east London integrated care system — with providers that serve many if not all of our boroughs.”

In a joint statement, the managing directors of the Medway, DGS, Swale, West Kent CCGs and the east Kent CCGs and the clinical chair of West Kent CCG said: “We strongly believe that having a single CCG will improve the quality of life and quality of care for our patients, and will help people to live their best life.” 

Ian Ayres, Caroline Selkirk and Bob Bowes continued: “It will save time, money and effort, freeing up GP time to see patients.” 

Commissioners hope the move will also help give staff time to work on the Kent and Medway integrated care system. According to the NHS long-term plan, each integrated care system should have a single CCG.

CCGs across the country have been asked to reduce their running costs by 20 per cent, and it is hoped the streamlined CCGs will improve efficiency. But an HSJ analysis found merging will not be enough to meet this level of savings in many cases.

In July, HSJ found that 86 were preparing to merge. But in recent months, GPs have rejected merger plans in the north west and in Staffordshire.

Proposals to merge Shropshire CCG and Telford and Wrekin CCG were rejected by NHSE/I last week.

*Updated at 13:03 on 23/10/19 to change number of CCGs which received approval to merge from NHSE/I after receiving responses from six south east London CCGs.