The eight clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Kent and Medway have been given conditional approval to merge and form a single CCG.

The decision by NHS England and NHS Improvement means that from 1 April 2020, subject to conditions being met, there will be one clinical commissioning group for Kent and Medway. This is part of plans to change the way some aspects of health and care services are organised so they can do more to:

  • prevent ill-health
  • provide better, more joined-up care for patients
  • make best use of staff and funds to meet rising demand.

The single CCG will save time, money and effort, freeing up GP time to see patients, and staff and GP time to develop new integrated care partnerships and primary care networks, which are a vital part of improving care for local people. These changes are in line with the NHS Long Term Plan which was published earlier this year.

GP Dr Bob Bowes, who chairs the Kent and Medway system transformation steering group, said: “We strongly believe having a single CCG will improve the quality of life and quality of care for our patients, and will help people to live their best life.

“It is an important step towards Kent and Medway becoming an integrated care system, with health and care organisations working together much more closely than in the past.

“We would like to thank everyone who took part in the surveys, shared their thoughts at meetings or otherwise contributed their views. Their feedback has helped us ensure the new CCG can deliver everything expected of it.”

The approval to create the single CCG has some conditions attached to it which the CCGs are confident will be met. These are:

  • approval by NHS England and NHS Improvement of the new CCG’s Constitution
  • appointment to all statutory Governing Body roles (which include five independent members)
  • delivery of the financial recovery plan this year, and clear plans for how the financial position of Kent and Medway will continue to improve
  • review in December to determine whether legal financial directions can be lifted from the four east Kent CCGs
  • NHS England and NHS Improvement to be part of the recruitment panel for key positions including the new Accountable Officer.

Benefits of a single CCG

GPs in each of the existing eight CCGs across Kent and Medway voted to move to having a single CCG as part of an integrated care system because it will:

  • help the NHS to improve patients’ health, wellbeing and experience across the whole of Kent and Medway by focusing on prevention of illness and on the difference services make to lives across Kent and Medway, not just what was done. This will put the focus where it should be, on people’s lives
  • use detailed data and insight to better target support to specific groups or communities, such as frail people, or people with severe and enduring mental illness, reducing unfairness in access to health services and unacceptable differences in health and life expectancy
  • overcome fragmentation and duplication, allowing faster decision making and channelling savings from doing things once into frontline care
  • support the development of the new integrated care partnerships and primary care networks which will design and deliver the majority of care for local people and do this in ways tailored to their populations
  • increase the ability of Kent and Medway to submit strong bids for national funding
  • improve staff recruitment and retention through a joined-up approach to workforce issues and opportunities
  • use its substantial buying power to increase value for money for the taxpayer
  • continue to involve local people in shaping health and care services
  • accelerate clinically-led innovation.

Before making the request to merge, the eight CCGs gathered views from their GPs, patients, the public, councils, staff, other NHS organisations, the Local Medical Committee, and other parties. The proposal was amended as a result of people’s comments and concerns.

For example, one of the strong themes that emerged was the need to make sure that local people and GPs still have a voice in the single Kent and Medway CCG and to recognise that different communities and areas have different needs.

As a result, the CCGs made a commitment that:

  • the Governing Body will always be led by a GP majority, with one GP from each of the existing CCG areas for at least the first two years. After 2022, the Governing Body will review how GPs are elected to it, linked to geographic communities of GPs, to ensure fair representation of the GP membership from across our diverse area
  • there will be strong and effective clinical leadership and input throughout the whole organisation
  • there will be strong local patient and public representation from the CCG governing body through to individual primary care networks.

In addition, the Patient and Public Advisory Group, which includes representatives from across Kent and Medway, continues to be heavily involved in designing patient and public involvement for the new CCG.

Read the You said we did report which gives details of what people said about the proposal and what the NHS did as a result. For more background to the changes go to www.kentandmedway.nhs.uk/ics