Healthcare in Berkshire West, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire could soon be managed by a single chief officer.

The Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will vote tomorrow on the merger plans.

The Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care System (BOB ICS) announced proposals in September to change the way NHS services are planned and funded in Reading, Wokingham, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

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Merger plans have now been revealed following a public consultation.

Councillor Graeme Hoskin, lead member for Health at Reading Borough Council (RBC), said at a meeting in October 2019: “I would love for the plans to go away and not happen”.

But here they are. The three proposals are:

  1. Appointing a single accountable officer and designing a shared management team for the three CCGs
  2. Creating stronger Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs) for all three areas
  3. Creating a single CCG for the three areas

Berkshire West CCG will vote on whether to approve the first proposal tomorrow (Tuesday, January 14).

Oxfordshire CCG will vote at the end of this month, while Buckinghamshire CCG voted last week in private.

Plans to merge the three CCGs and develop the ICPs will be considered in the next financial year.

Berkshire West firmly opposed: How people responded to the consultation

There were 224 responses to the consultation, with 209 deemed countable. 45 per cent of the responses were from members of the public.

The report states this was “unexpectedly high for a set of proposals entirely about making changes to structures and management rather than the design of health or care services.”

Most respondents – 106 – said they were concerned about the proposals (neither support nor opposition), while 21 gave their support and 65 declared their opposition.

People in the Berkshire West CCG area, which includes Reading, West Berkshire and Wokingham, put up the strongest opposition – almost 70 per cent opposed the plans.

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Bucks respondents gave the most positive reaction with 20 per cent in support, while those in Oxford were measured in their response with a majority raising concerns.

The proposals received no support from CCG staff in any of the three areas, while all “political figures” opposed the idea.

Concerns included:

  • Loss of transparency
  • Dilution of local decision making and knowledge
  • Loss of financial resources for each area
  • Geographically and historically unnatural grouping of CCGs

The proposal to create stronger ICPs received the strongest support.

What’s next?

The BOB ICS – a body which brings health and care organisations together under one umbrella – said the feedback showed “neither strong support nor outright rejection” of the proposals.

The body wants to move forward with plans to appoint and single accountable officer and shared management team despite concern raised in the consultation.

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If the first proposal is approved, a single accountable officer will be procured and designs for a combined leadership team will also be drawn up.

The CCGs will continue to have their own senior leadership, represented at ICS level.

Plans to merge the CCGs and develop the ICPs will be re-examined in the 2020/21 financial year.