CCGs will be able to form joint committees under Government proposals designed to reduce bureaucracy.
The DH argued that CCGs are facing ‘cumbersome’ procedures and lawyers’ fees when they look to work together on wide-ranging service redesign, as there was no legal right to form joint committees.
Ministers said that these changes will bring more efficiency and value for money on decisions affecting multiple CCGs in a region.
Commissioning leaders welcomed the proposed changes, but grassroots GPs expressed concern that joint committees could remove member practices from decision-making processes.
Explanatory notes for the changes stated: ‘The lack of ability for NHS England and CCGs to jointly exercise CCG functions is not only an administrative inconvenience, but a barrier to efficiency, productivity and value for money.’
The changes will also allow NHS England and CCGs to form joint committees to commission secondary care services.
There were concerns in the consultation document that this would affect the autonomy of CCGs, but the Government emphasised that any arrangements would be strictly voluntary.
Dr Charles Alessi, chair of the National Association of Primary Care, said: ‘It’s good news for CCGs to work collegiately. It could be helpful if three or four CCGs are working on reconfiguration in a hospital because they all have a different relationships with the hospital.’
But Dr Robert Morley, chair of the GPC contracts and regulation sub-committee, said it could affect CCGs’ links with member practices.
He said: ‘This is legislation that has been allowed to creep in with no proper consultation with stakeholders such as the GPC. I can’t see anything in this legislation that makes the joint committees accountable to their home CCGs’ governance bodies or member practices. The joint committees could make all sorts of decisions about local health access.’
He added: ‘If CCGs form joint committees with NHS England there could be an open door for CCGs to commission GP contracts from themselves. The DH says there are practical reasons for making the changes, but I’m more concerned about the fundamental principles that have been overridden.’