EARLY discussions are taking place over the possibility of a mega merger of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

CCGs are clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for specific areas.

A merger between Warrington and Halton was shelved in September following a vote.

Health chiefs had set their sights on closing down both bodies and creating a new one this April to reduce running costs, but the merger application was not submitted to NHS England because of insufficient support from members in Halton.

But Dr Andrew Davies, clinical chief officer for both Warrington and Halton CCGs, told the health scrutiny committee there is a proposal for Halton, Warrington, St Helens and, potentially, Knowsley CCGs to merge during Thursday’s meeting at the Town Hall.

Warrington Guardian:

Warrington Town Hall

However, it is at a very early stage and no decisions have been made.

Dr Davies said the CCGs have been asked to ‘get our heads together’ and have a look at the potential move, with NHS England having an ambition for it to come into effect in 2021.

He also highlighted the need to ‘secure a good offer’ for Warrington.

Warrington CCG said any formal plans will need to be considered by the respective governing bodies and agreed with the membership.

A spokesman added: “The NHS long-term plan signalled the move to streamlined strategic commissioning and a clear focus on integrated commissioning at ‘place’.

“This means that in the future CCGs need to work differently on larger footprints.

“As a consequence of developing our strong primary care networks and integrating commissioning in the respective boroughs, the CCGs will be able to work in a different way.

“Supporting the individual boroughs would require much of the work currently undertaken by the CCG to be delivered in each place.

“This will allow the CCG to focus on the governance and assurance required and enable the commissioning of more specialist services.

“In developing any proposals, we will ensure that we involve and engage all our key stakeholders, including our local authority partners, elected councillors and members of the public.”

Warrington Borough Council chief executive Steven Broomhead, who chairs the health and wellbeing board, said he ‘looks forward’ to being part of the discussions over the potential merger.