The NHS’s long-term plan (LTP) released earlier this year aims to have every part of England covered by an integrated care system (ICS) by April 2021. This has led to a slew of mergers between clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which are responsible for the planning and commissioning of healthcare services for their local areas. It remains to be seen whether these mergers will help or hinder the NHS going forward, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Jonathan Cordwell, Principal UK Health and Social Care Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The LTP aims for the 42 sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) to ultimately evolve into integrated care systems ICSs. However, an ICS theoretically operates better with a single CCG to simplify and streamline commissioning decisions at a system level. In essence, the NHS is looking to move towards the Accountable Care model of the US.
“This has led to numerous CCG merger announcements with 2019 alone having seen 54 CCGs dissolve down to 13 thus far, with the latest being Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Furthermore, 28 other CCGs are in discussions to dissolve down to seven, and decisions on these mergers are expected to follow shortly. To date, only three proposed mergers have been rejected – although, following renegotiations, these could also be approved at a later date.
“While the intentions of enforcing these mergers may seem logical and noble, it remains to be seen how these new entities will be used. Simpler, faster procurement processes may be welcomed by IT suppliers but concerns remain around the reduced representation of practices and the thinning of the decision making approval processes with some speculating that the remaining CCGs may be used as scapegoats to push through further cuts.
“In its purest form, the final number of CCGs would be reduced to 42, in line with the current number of STPs. However, it is likely that some will continue to operate with multiple CCGs so this figure may not be as drastic. Still, even if all proposed and previously rejected mergers are approved, it would see the current tally sit at 126 and so many more mergers are expected to be announced over the coming months.”