• Three West Midlands CCGs vote to merge
  • CCGs say decision will improve relations across STP and remove perverse financial incentives
  • If approved by GPs and regulators, merger could go ahead in April 2020

Three clinical commissioning groups in the West Midlands are planning to merge, forming a single commissioner across the sustainability and transformation partnership.

The boards of Coventry and Rugby, Warwickshire North, and South Warwickshire CCGs have all agreed to merge and will now take the proposal to their GP members for a vote. If agreed, the CCGs could merge in April next year.

Between them, the CCGs have a budget of £1.4bn and cover 813,000 people. They employ 361 staff, with Coventry and Rugby CCG the biggest of the three organisations.

Coventry and Rugby, and Warwickshire North CCGs have shared a management team since April 2017, but South Warwickshire has, until now, remained separate. 

A paper that went to Coventry and Rugby, and Warwickshire North CCGs on 22 May stated the merger would help minimise “structural barriers” and remove “competing priorities”.

It said meetings with staff, patients and other stakeholders between March and May this year had indicated a formal merger was the best way to achieve this.

However, the meetings also revealed “some scepticism that it would work this time around, particularly when it came to integrating the health and social care agenda, finances and accountability”.

Responding to questions from HSJ, a spokesman for the CCGs said the merger would reduce duplication, “improve relationships” across the STP, and “removes incentives to act in the interest of individual organisations and encourages activity which benefits the entire system”.

The NHS long-term plan requires regions to become integrated care systems by April 2021, including a single commissioning function for each system.

The paper noted a “growing appetite” in the NHS for CCG mergers and pointed out even those that had not yet merged often had shared management teams.