Reassurances needed as plans emerge for Kirklees health care shake-up

Health chiefs have been urged to reassure the public that a shake-up of primary health care will not lead to the NHS being fragmented.

The call came as it was revealed that a formal merger of health chiefs and GPs in charge of community care in Kirklees is still set to go ahead – even though it will only last for 12 months.

The Governing Bodies of Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) agreed in November to apply to NHS England to dissolve the two organisations and create a single CCG for Kirklees.

The two bodies were formed in 2013 after Kirklees Primary Care Trust (PCT) was scrapped.

CCG Chief Officer Carol McKenna
CCG Chief Officer Carol McKenna

However it has now emerged that the merger on April 1 will run for just a year as NHS England is recommending that CCGs are to be disestablished on March 31, 2022 subject to legislation being passed.

Their statutory functions would transfer to Integrated Care Systems (ICS).

Health chiefs are ploughing ahead with their plans nonetheless.

Speaking at Kirklees Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Panel Coun Lesley Warner (Ind, Colne Valley) said the public had “a real need for reassurance that we are not slowly but surely fragmenting the NHS even more.”

Her comments followed an earlier question over future tendering processes with transparency on how money was spent, particularly around the provision of clinical services.

CCG Chief Officer Carol McKenna accepted the concern and said: “Equally this is one where you can’t do right for doing wrong.

“The competitive environment in the public sector generates a lot of concern because they believe it paves the way for private companies to come in and deliver NHS services.

“Arguably a move away from regular competition [and] competitive procurements might mean that there are less opportunities for that to happen.

“It’s difficult, I think, and no matter which way you do it people have concerns. What’s important to us as a CCG is to make sure we’re transparent.”

Coun Warner said: “Getting rid of the competitive process rings alarm bells for me. Clearly a lot of stuff has gone on where there’s been no tenders gone [out], and [it’s] questionable where a lot of money went.

“It kind of worries me if we’re losing the ability to be completely transparent – how and where everything is being delivered and who’s bidding for what.”

Ms McKenna said the intention was not to go from having “extreme competition to having nothing” but that there was a drive to remove the bureaucracy around competitive procurements.

“Sometimes we find in the NHS that we’re having to do competitive tendering for relatively small value contracts, which takes up a lot of time and effort to not necessarily get the best result in the end.”

A report to the panel said: “If confirmed, the ICS proposal would mean that Kirklees CCG may only exist for 12 months.

“The rationale for merger has been revisited in this context to confirm that it remains in the best interests of the Kirklees population; the consistent conclusion is that it does.”

If the merger goes ahead Greater Huddersfield CCG and North Kirklees CCG will cease to exist. Instead a new Kirklees CCG will be established.

All employed staff will transfer to the new CCG along with all assets and liabilities.