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Smallest CCG given 48 hours to merge

The smallest clinical commissioning group in England has been given less than 48 hours to merge with a neighbouring CCG or face becoming an ‘unaffiliated' practice.

The Red House Group CCG, which covers three branch surgeries and just 18,900 patients across South Hertfordshire, received a letter from NHS Midlands and East strategic health authority via email on the 28 February instructing them to merge with the neighbouring Herts Valley CCG by 1 March or face being deemed ‘an unaffiliated practice'.

The letter, signed by Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, director of commissioning development at NHS Midlands and East, said: ‘I am writing to confirm that the SHA cannot support the Red House Surgery in its ambition to become a Clinical Commissioning Group in its current configuration.

'The SHA do not feel assured that the practice has taken the actions required to resolve the configuration issues despite both the PCT and the SHA providing recommended actions and offers of facilitation.

‘We will therefore make the recommendation to the Department of Health that you are deemed to be an unaffiliated practice as of 1 March 2012.'

The letter is dated 17 February 2012 but doctors at Red House Surgery said they only received the document via email yesterday.

Dr Mike Ingram, chair of Red House Group CCG, said: ‘This was emailed to us yesterday. We are used to hospital letters taking around ten days to get through but it is strange that an email letter took so long to reach us.'

Dr Ingram said that Red House's ‘success is being punished' by pressure to merge or abolish the CCG and said several of the SHA's demands were 'unacceptable'.

He said: 'The perversity is that amid so much opposition to the health bill, in so many areas, the one area where GPs have aspirations is to be able to be locally in control of the environment for the best of their patients. Yet here success is being punished – we have been able to engage with our patients, we have been able to advance healthcare pathways for them, and we have done that while staying within a tight budget. Yet we are the ones facing being abolished or merged.

‘Our practice manager has written to them explaining there are aspects of this letter that are unacceptable such as the short notice, and it didn't portray the fact that we have been engaging.'

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