• NHS England places Solihull, North Lincolnshire and North Derbyshire CCGs under legal directions
  • All three are rated inadequate and are in financial difficulty
  • Move comes ahead of Solihull’s proposed merger with two other CCGs

Three clinical commissioning groups has been given legal directions from NHS England amid ongoing financial difficulties, including one CCG involved in a major merger.

NHS England has given Solihull, North Lincolnshire and North Derbyshire legal directions after each was rated inadequate in their 2016-17 year-end assessment.

In total, 23 CCGs were rated inadequate by NHS England for 2016-17, many of which were subject to legal directions last year.

The three CCGs have been ordered to produce, or comply with, financial recovery plans. North Derbyshire has been told to appoint a turnaround director and Solihull must appoint a permanent chief financial officer.

All planning and senior appointments at the CCGs are subject NHS England approval, the directions said.

Solihull CCG must also produce an integration plan, ahead of its planned merger Birmingham CrossCity and Birmingham South and Central CCGs, which were rated good. The three have proposed creating the biggest CCG in the country, covering 1.2 million people, by April next year.

Solihull reported a deficit of £2.9m in 2016-17, the only one of the merging CCGs to do so, and was budgeting for a cumulative deficit of £8.3m in 2017-18. It has committed to find £18m of savings, equivalent to 6 per cent of its revenue, in 2017-18.

In February, HSJ reported the merger appeared to have been delayed by disagreement over a shared financial plan and appointing an accountable officer.

Merger documents, published in June, showed there was concern from the other CCGs that their funds would be diverted to address Solihull’s financial difficulties.

The CCGs have since insisted the merger remains on track for April and, after failing to find a permanent candidate, appointed Paul Jennings as interim accountable officer in July. Consultation on the merger, and other less favoured options for joint commissioning, closes today.

Mr Jennings and Solihull CCG chair Anand Chitnis said in a joint statement: “Although the CCG has been working in ‘financial turnaround’ since the beginning of 2017, we had anticipated that NHS England will use legal directions to support us in delivering against our financial challenges.”

The intervention would not affect the consultation or delivery of patient care, they said.

North Lincolnshire and North Derbyshire CCGs reported deficits of £12.3m and £15.9m respectively in 2016-17.

North Derbyshire recently appointed an accountable officer, Chris Clayton, to be shared with three neighbouring CCGs, with all four moving towards forming a “single organisation”.