England's smallest CCG defies 'totally unreasonable' 48-hour notice to merge

England's smallest clinical commissioning group (CCG), which was given 48 hours to merge with neighbours, has told the SHA it will not meet the 'totally unreasonable' deadline.

Dr Ingram: ‘'This happened because we are small and do not fit in with the model the SHA wants'
Dr Ingram: ‘'This happened because we are small and do not fit in with the model the SHA wants'

The Red House Group CCG, covering 18,900 patients in Hertfordshire, was told to merge today after receiving an emailed letter from the Midlands and East SHA on February 28 dated February 17 stating ‘they do not meet the requirements of the Health Bill’.

Practice manager of the three Red House practices, Ken Spooner, who met prime minister David Cameron at a reception at 10 Downing Street, to celebrate them becoming one of the first CCGs in December 2010, said: ‘The SHA gave us a day to respond and I replied telling it that it was a totally unreasonable deadline and it asked for us to give it a timescale. I am writing it another letter today to say that we don’t want to merge.

‘Instead of trying to get rid of us it should be helping us to survive.’

But partner at the surgery Dr Michael Ingram, who has worked there for 25 years, is worried that merging will mean the loss of clinics currently offered such as sexual health, audiology, musculoskeletal and weight management.

He said: ‘We believe that we have made significant changes, we are democratic, innovative, fiscally responsible and base services on patients’ needs.

'This happened because we are small and do not fit in with the model the SHA wants, which is centrally controlled CCGs fronted by general practices but led by the NHS Commissioning Board.

‘There is the illusion of locality. Am I naïve in believing that central control is what it is all about? I don’t think I am.

‘The only positive thing about the debacle which is the Health Bill is the promise of granting local practices control and the opportunity to develop services. We are being punished for doing that.

‘We are small and work as a coherent team.

‘Before we received the email from the SHA, we received an email from a group of practices in the area saying it is fed up with the way things are going and asked to join us.’

A spokeswoman from the PCT NHS Hertfordshire said: ‘NHS Hertfordshire has been talking to Red House CCG about the alternative options available to them, including becoming part of Herts Valleys CCG – the CCG surrounding their area.

‘We will continue to offer support and guidance where needed to help Red House manage the transition to joining a new CCG.’

An NHS Midlands and East spokeswoman said: 'NHS Midlands and East and NHS Hertfordshire have been working with Red House Surgery since last year to ensure it can fully contribute towards the new clinical commissioning arrangements proposed within the Health and Social Care Bill. We have recommended a number of times, over the last few months, that Red House Surgery should start negotiations to join its neighbouring CCG (Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group) as its current configuration does not meet the requirements of the Health and Social Care Bill and therefore authorisation will be very unlikely.'

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