STRUCTURE: GPs in the Wirral have agreed to merge their three proposed commissioning groups into one, after the strategic health authority said they were too small and would not be authorised.

The groups included the Wirral NHS Alliance, of which National Association of Primary Care president James Kingsland’s practice was a member. Dr Kingland also leads a Department of Health-sponsored national clinical commissioners network.

As well as covering relatively small populations, the groups did not have clear geographical areas, with member practices not all neighbouring.

Wirral NHS Alliance will now join Wirral GP Commissioning Consortium and Wirral Health Commissioning Consortium to form a single CCG.

Dr Kingsland had defended his group’s decision to remain independent, pointing out it has been a “successful practice based commissioning group and pathfinder consortia”.

But he told HSJ: “We have had to take a pragmatic approach.” He said the single CCG would share risk and fulfill some statutory functions, and the autonomy of the three previous groups would be protected in its constitution. Dr Kingsland said the three groups would have “hard budgets” and be able to make decisions about local services without consulting the single CCG board.

HSJ reported earlier in February that United Commissioning, the group chaired by leading NAPC member Johnny Marshall, is also considering merging with the other group in Buckinghamshire.