Early discussions are taking place over the possibility of a mega merger of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), including St Helens.
CCGs are clinically-led, statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for specific areas.
Dr Andrew Davies, clinical chief officer for both Warrington and Halton CCGs, told the health scrutiny committee there is a proposal for Halton, Warrington, St Helens and, potentially, Knowsley CCGs to merge during Thursday’s meeting at Warrington Town Hall.
Dr Davies said the CCGs have been asked to “get our heads together” and have a look at the potential move, with NHS England having an ambition for it to come into effect in 2021.
Following the meeting, Sarah O’Brien, clinical accountable officer for St Helens CCG, confirmed that discussions are ongoing but said it is “very early days”.
Prof O’Brien, who is also the strategic director of people’s services at St Helens Council, said: “The NHS Long Term Plan signalled the move to streamlined strategic commissioning, and a clear focus on integrated commissioning at ‘place’.
“NHS England have indicated to us that in the future, CCGs will need to work differently on larger footprints.
“It is very early days and any formal proposals will need to be considered by our governing body and agreed with our GP membership.
“In developing any proposals, we will ensure the involvement and engagement of all our key stakeholders, including our local authority partners, elected councillors and members of the public.”
Warrington Borough Council chief executive Steven Broomhead, who chairs the health and wellbeing board, said he “looks forward” to being part of the discussions over the potential merger.
A merger between Warrington and Halton CCGs was shelved in September following a vote.
Health chiefs had set their sights on closing down both bodies and creating a new one this April to reduce running costs.
However, the merger application was not submitted to NHS England because of insufficient support from members in Halton.