THE probability of Warrington and Halton clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) merging has increased – although there are no current plans for it to happen.

Warrington North MP Helen Jones raised fears over a possible merger in April but her concerns were dismissed.

However, amid pressures facing NHS budgets, the issue came before the health scrutiny committee at the Town Hall during Thursday's meeting.

Dr Andrew Davies, clinical chief officer of NHS Warrington CCG, said: "We have had joint working arrangements with Halton, who are our nearest neighbour.

"There isn't a plan to merge as we haven't got to that point but we have to realistically consider that the probability of that has gone up because that might be a way of taking out additional costs.

"We will be looking at what is feasible, we need to deliver savings by 2020.

"If there was decision to merge the organisations we would come back to communities and be honest about it."

Cllr Paul Warburton (LAB – Chapelford and Old Hall) also pressed Dr Davies over how much a consultation would cost.

Dr Davies said: "I don't know – that's a very good question.

"We haven't got to that thinking yet.

"The other thing is that we looked at Halton and would that be big enough?

"There is a national ambition, there will be somebody sat somewhere in Whitehall, who has drawn out what size a CCG should be. They are not sharing that.

"What they have done is put drivers into the system to make people think about them."