Three Suffolk and Essex clinical commissioning groups to join together as part of NHS shake-up
- Credit: PA
Ambitions to integrate health services across Suffolk and north-east Essex have taken another leap forward as plans for joint budgeting emerge.
The three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) covering this wide area, which are responsible for planning some NHS services, have revealed proposals to form a partnership.
If plans are approved, Ipswich and East Suffolk, West Suffolk, and North East Essex CCGs will establish a shared committee and recruit a single accountable officer.
Amanda Lyes, chief corporate services officer at the two Suffolk CCGs, said: “What we are trying to achieve is maximising efficiency in how we work and how we commission services for our patients and the population we serve.
“There’s no current legislation that is actually forcing the three CCGs to formally merge, we are not doing any merging, all we are simply doing is working smarter, more efficient and doing lots of joint work that over time might mean that we have joint teams.
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“We are looking at reducing duplication and really getting the most out of our current resource base.”
Mrs Lyes said the CCGs could have “shared control totals and a shared budget” in the future.
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When asked about possible redundancies, Mrs Lyes said: “That’s certainly not on the agenda at the moment.”
Mrs Lyes said the marriage was not about “cutting corners”, but admitted it would save money in processes which could be reinvested in services.
The move is part of the Suffolk and North East Essex Sustainability Transformation Partnership (STP), which was established in 2016 and involves all local health and social care organisations.
There are 44 STPs across England and they have each been tasked with drawing up a plan for how to improve and revolutionise NHS services in their areas in order to overcome challenges and meet demand.
This is due to develop into an Integrated Care System by 2019/20, which will give leaders greater operational and financial freedoms.
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, has cautiously welcomed the CCG plans, but called for transparency with the public.
He said: “It must be hoped that these changes will help to realise the overall ambition of simpler and more joined up services for us all.
“On the one hand, this seems at face value to be a sensible move. It will ensure that the new models of care being developed under the remit of our local STP are commissioned in a collaborative manner under the responsibility of a single entity.
“On the other hand, this may also feel like the system is simply returning full circle to what has been done before, albeit on a larger scale.
“It really is too early to fully understand the implications for patients, carers and staff.
“We are clear however that the system must make every effort to ensure transparency throughout this process of transformation. It does not happen for free and patients have a right to know how health and care leaders are making the best use of the resources available to them. Every effort must be made to communicate with local people in an honest way and promises made with regard to co-production in service design and delivery must be realised at the earliest possible opportunity.”