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NHS England and NHS Improvement have given conditional approval to allow the eight clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Kent and Medway to merge and form one, single CCG.

The plans, which were voted for by GPs in West Kent in September, will see the buying and planning for healthcare for the country be combined in one of the biggest health service shake-ups of 2019.

The creation of the one clinical commissioning group for Kent and Medway is planned for the 1st April 2020, however, will be subject to conditions being met.

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Health chiefs in the region state a single CCG will save time, money and effort, freeing up GP time to see patients, and staff and GP time to develop new integrated care partnerships and primary care networks.

In particular, the CCGs highlight that a merged Kent and Medway CCG will lead to cost savings through the reduction of fragmentation and duplication, as well as increasing the ability of Kent and Medway to submit strong bids for national funding.

Additionally, the CCGs emphasise that the single CCG will “use its substantial buying power to increase value for money for the taxpayer.”

GP Dr Bob Bowes, who chairs the Kent and Medway system transformation steering group, said: “We strongly believe having a single CCG will improve the quality of life and quality of care for our patients, and will help people to live their best life.

“It is an important step towards Kent and Medway becoming an integrated care system, with health and care organisations working together much more closely than in the past.

“We would like to thank everyone who took part in the surveys, shared their thoughts at meetings or otherwise contributed their views. Their feedback has helped us ensure the new CCG can deliver everything expected of it.”

In order for the combined CCG to be established, a number of conditions will have to be met, including the delivery of the financial recovery plan this year and clear plans for how the financial position of Kent and Medway will continue to improve.

In addition, NHS England and NHS Improvement are to be part of the recruitment panel for key positions including the new Accountable Officer, alongside a review in December to determine whether legal financial directions can be lifted from the four east Kent CCGs.

The eight CCGs say they are confident all conditions will be met.

Prior to making the request to merge, the eight CCGs gathered views from a number of stakeholders, including GPs, patients, the public, councils, staff and other NHS organisations. From the feedback, a particular concern raised was that a combined CCG for the county would lack a local focus, with some areas getting a better deal than others.

According to the CCGs, to address these fears, commitments have been made to ensure the Governing Body will always be led by a GP majority, with one GP from each of the existing CCG areas for at least the first two years.

In addition, the CCGs confirmed that there will be strong local patient and public representation from the CCG governing body through to individual primary care networks.

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