NHS England has approved plans to merge the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Wiltshire, Bath & North East Somerset (BaNES) and Swindon into one organisation. The merger will take effect in April next year. The new CCG will be known as the BSW CCG.
Earlier the merger had got the support of the majority of GP practices in BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire, as well as the support of each of the three CCG governing bodies. Wiltshire CCG holds the funding for nearly all NHS services in the county – and decides how it is spent.
The statement announcing NHS England’s approval said: “The plan will have no effect on the way services are currently provided across the area but will reduce variation in care and standardise best practice so everyone can access high quality treatment and services, regardless of where they live.”
Tracey Cox (pictured above) is Chief Executive of the new BSW CCG: “Getting the go ahead to merge our three CCGs is very positive news. Coming together as a single CCG will allow health and care providers in B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire to ensure we are reducing variation in the provision of services.”
“We also want to concentrate on supporting people to stay healthy and tackle the causes of illness. This merger will also allow us to meet financial challenges, for example through economy of scale cost-savings and the streamlining of governance and administration which means we can invest more of our budget into frontline services.”
NHS England’s approval of such mergers is not automatic. This week a plan to merge two CCGs into one organisation covering all of Shropshire was turned down as not being ‘strong enough at this stage’.
The Coalition’s Health and Social Care Act (2012) – the ‘Lansley Act’ which set up the CCGs – is still the law that governs the NHS. This week the minority government’s Queen’s Speech has promised ‘new laws’ to implement the legislative changes outlined last month by NHS England in their Recommendations to Government and Parliament for an NHS Bill.
It is unclear how radical these changes will be by the time they have been through the Department of Health and Parliament. And it is very unclear how local authorities and their Health and Wellbeing Boards will react to them.
But so far the 2012 Act trudges on in face of the move – which we reported in April – away from local organisations towards larger ones.
This week a noted commentator on NHS matters hoped the Queen’s Speech would herald the end of the Act: “What an excruciating waste of public money and time the 2012 Act has been. The job losses, the careers demolished… oh, what an embarrassment and a colossal and criminal diversion and misuse of the goodwill that fires up the NHS…”
To achieve the merger of Wiltshire, Bath & North East Somerset (BaNES) and Swindon CCGs will cost £313,000. And that is before a decision has been made as to where BSW CCG will have its headquarters – it could be a costly decision. Already there are worries about the time and money members of the new board will be spending travelling to meetings.
Elizabeth O’Mahony is NHS England and NHS Improvement’s South West Regional Director: “Bringing together Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire CCGs into one single, strategic organisation mirrors developments taking place across the NHS as health and care services move to work more closely together for the benefit of local people and employees.”