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Knowledge Hub

CCG mergers drive integrated care agenda

Oli Hudson, of Wilmington Healthcare, assesses the latest tranche of Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) mergers and what they mean for industry suppliers

Industry’s stakeholder map has changed once again, bringing new territory planning challenges, following NHS England’s decision to allow 74 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to merge at the start of April to establish 18 new ones.

The new mergers have seen the total number of these organisations fall from 191 to 135, with significant variation in the number of CCGs involved in different mergers and the population sizes they cover.

For example, Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership has merged all of its eight CCGs into one with a population of 1,846,478; while the new Northamptonshire CCG has been formed by merging just two CCGs and has a population of 730,650.

Integrated care and industry

The latest tranche of CCG mergers is a significant milestone in the journey towards integrated care as the NHS moves decisively towards the Long-term Plan’s vision of ‘typically’ just one CCG per Integrated Care System (ICS) area.

This collaborative approach will help to deliver a 20 percent reduction in operational costs, including administration, enabling savings to be ploughed back into frontline services.

Industry account planners will have to consider the needs of a wider population within a CCG area and the NHS’s move towards managing healthcare at a system level, with pooled budgets and collaborative working practices.

This requires a holistic whole system approach from industry as CCGs come under pressure to help make savings across whole patient pathways.

New roles and responsibilities

Historically, CCGs have been responsible for planning and purchasing healthcare locally. However, as they reduce in number, but become larger in size, they will take on a more strategic role.

In line with this, they will be instrumental in helping the NHS to introduce place-based care and to ensure that providers are doing the right thing for their local population. They are also expected to formally take on other roles and work from NHSE, which could include specialised commissioning.

As the NHS moves towards larger CCGs with pooled resources and budgets, it will be vital for suppliers to determine how money flows within these organisations and where it will be spent. This will also demand a tailored approach as there will be considerable variation between different localities as new territories emerge with new budgets and new decision-making units.

Ultimately, industry is working with a very different type of health economy now and this is being set in stone by CCG mergers, which will be key to delivering many aspects of integrated care.