QUESTIONS will be raised this week about a massive NHS reorganisation which has been criticised as losing local influence and oversight. 

The reorganisation will see three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) — responsible for planning, designing and paying for NHS services in the community — merged into one. 

Berkshire West CCG covers Reading, West Berkshire and Wokingham, and is made up of 50 GP practices serving a population of 550,000.

READ MORE: Delays in investigation into illegal council contract

The merger would see the CCG group up with two others, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, to form one ‘super CCG’. 

On January 17, Cathy Winfield, chief officer of Berkshire West CCG, will be quizzed by local councillors in Reading and members of Healthwatch Reading, a local watchdog.

She will give an update to the health and wellbeing board, a public meeting at Reading Borough Council, on the latest progress with the merger; and also take questions. 

READ MORE: Risks of £100m commercial property investment ‘coming home to roost’

Specifically, Ms Winfield will update the board on what happened at a meeting of the CCG on January 14 — when GPs agreed to go ahead with the first of three phases of the merger. 

That first phase is appointing a single accountable officer — effectively a chief executive — for the three CCGs: Berkshire West, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Buckinghamshire CCG has also agreed the first phase, while Oxfordshire CCG will vote on January 30.  

The next two phases will follow in the next financial year. 

But concerns have been raised in a public engagement about how the merger would lose local connections and local accountability. 

Andrew Sharp, chief executive of Healthwatch West Berkshire, said: “If you’ve got an issue it will be much harder to have your voice heard.

“Local accountability is really important because it allows you to fine-tune how services are delivered.” 

He said it would result in a loss of democratic scrutiny, as public board meetings where key decisions are made could be held much farther away, being difficult to get to. 

Mr Sharp also described how the proposed area, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire West and Oxfordshire, include very different areas; and so have very different health and wellbeing problems. 

He said: “How can you compare Kintbury to the centre of Oxford?”

The merger will also be discussed and scrutinised at a meeting of the health and wellbeing board at West Berkshire Council on January 30.