GP leaders in Staffordshire have taken steps to block the merger of their CCG with five others due to budget fears, Pulse’s sister publication Healthcare Leader has learned.
The six CCGs that proposed to merge include North Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, East Staffordshire, Stafford and Surrounds, Cannock Chase and South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula.
However, North Staffordshire LMC emailed members urging them to vote against the proposal after it deemed there was ‘no potential net benefit’ for practices or patients for the merger to go ahead.
The LMC’s chair, Dr Paul Scott, told Healthcare Leader: ‘Our biggest concerns were dilution and loss of the deprivation weighting for the north of the county, which is required to meet the needs of the population we serve.
‘Staffordshire, as a whole, is under budget by at least 3.5%, which means this was re-dividing an already too-small cake.
‘There was also the additional risk of being subsumed into the south of the county’s very substantial historic debt, which our population is not liable for.’
The NHS Long-Term Plan intends for integrated care systems (ICSs) to absorb existing CCGs and cover the country by 2021 – which will see one CCG per ICS. This will result in fewer commissioners being responsible for larger geographical areas.
According to North Staffordshire LMC, chronic underfunding and a ‘background of need and deprivation’ in northern CCGs means that it will be a ‘real challenge’ to have proportionate GP representation in an ICS.
In an email to members, the LMC said: ‘after careful consideration we have concluded that there is no potential net benefit for either patients or GP practices to merge the six CCGs into a single CCG.
‘An effective ICS can be set up with the current configuration of CCGs, using a Northern Staffordshire footprint, which we would support. Therefore, we advise you to reject this proposal.’
This summer, the BMA wrote to NHS England demanding that mergers only go ahead after receiving approval from their member practice.
In a joint statement, North Staffordshire CCG and the five others involved in the proposed merger said: ‘Each of the GP memberships of the six CCGs of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent have voted on proposals to create a Single Strategic Commissioning Organisation (SSCO) as per the arrangements outlined in their local constitutions.
‘These votes have been counted and independently verified by the LMC. The result of the voting remains confidential until presented to the Governing Bodies in Common on Thursday evening (19 September), where a decision on the next steps will be taken.’