Shropshire Council leader calls for county health groups to merge
The leader of Shropshire Council has said the two groups that pay for health services in the county should merge, as it would save "millions".
Conservative leader Peter Nutting is due to meet MPs today and said he will bring up combining Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), which Telford & Wrekin Council leader Shaun Davies has labelled a "disaster".
Councillor Nutting said: "I've made it clear to people I've been talking to that I do think that with the retirement of Shropshire CCG's accountable officer Simon Freeman in March there is the opportunity to combine the two CCGs in Shropshire into one unit and simplify the health regime that exists in Shropshire which is incredibly complicated, with too may layers.
"What we've got to do is simplify the administration of heath care because we're wasting millions of pounds, which should be being spend on patients, on administration.
"Instead of arguing publicly, perhaps we will argue around the table.
"It''s just nonsense at the moment, that there are two completely different views on one county with a population of half a million, it's just wasting people's energy.
"From a council point of view we're not necessarily pushing this, but it is something to stop and think about."
Labour's Shaun Davies said such a merger would be a "disaster".
And Councillor Arnold England, Telford & Wrekin's cabinet lead for health, said the merger would use Telford to solve the "huge snowballing financial problems" Shropshire CCG has.
He said: "Let’s not be fooled – this is simply akin to a good old-fashioned land grab justified because someone else is bigger.
“In reality it would use Telford to try to sort out the huge snowballing financial problems Shropshire CCG faces. Take a CCG that is within budget, as Telford and Wrekin is, and merge it with one that has a debt of tens of millions of pounds, as Shropshire has.
“It beggars belief that the people of Telford and Wrekin’s can think their health needs will be best served by it being annexed by a slightly bigger organisation mired in debt that serves a population with hugely different demands and very different health issues.
“We have different CCGs and councils precisely because we are so very different – Telford is by far the largest centre with a very different and mostly urban population compared with Shropshire which is dominated by a largely rural economy.
“As councils and CCGs work becomes ever more closely linked, perhaps the best way to achieve the efficiencies that the leader of Shropshire is so keen on would be to see how more services between CCGs with the respective councils can be shared, while leaving an independent CCG Board that is free to make decisions on local health care to best meet their residents’ needs.”
Councillor England is writing to all GPs to urge them to support this approach and will be asking the borough’s two MPs to fight any idea of merging CCGs.
Councillor Nutting added that a merger between Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council is "a long way off in the future".
"I think a council merger is a long way off in the future," he said. "Particularly Shropshire has got plenty to keep it busy, with the Shrewsbury shopping centres, Ludlow Assembly Rooms, and a health centre in Whitchurch, we've got lots of projects and we're more than busy enough."
Dr Julian Povey, chairman of Shropshire CCG, said the national direction is for CCGs to merge, but there are no such plans locally.
He said: “The national direction of travel for CCGs is to create single commissioners at an STP footprint level. It is a complex process and is underway in other NHS North Midlands STPs including Derbyshire and Staffordshire. There are currently no plans in place for similar actions within the Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin CCGs.”
David Evans, chief officer of NHS Telford and Wrekin CCG, added: “There are no current plans for a merger between the two CCGs.
“Our priority is to ensure patients in Telford and Wrekin receive the right care for their local needs. The different demographics and challenges faced in the two areas, support local health leadership which enables collaboration within local council boundaries.
“We work closely with Shropshire CCG to jointly commission a range of services, that deliver quality care for patients and improve efficiency and effectiveness. We will continue to explore new ways of collaboration.”