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Clinical Commissioning Groups to be absorbed into Integrated Care Systems

NHS England has proposed that the commissioning functions of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) need to be absorbed into the newly developing integrated care systems (ICS) by April 2022, as part of its plans to “accelerate collaborative ways of working”.

This comes as part of a package of proposed changes to legislation designed to hand ICSs the direct commissioning power. It will result in a ‘single pot’ of funding which brings together current CCG commissioning budgets and primary care budgets, among other sources of funding.

The paper, published by NHS England and Improvement titled: Integrating care: Next steps to building strong and effective integrated care systems across England states that: “Local leaders have repeatedly told us that the commissioning functions currently carried out by CCGs need to become more strategic, with a clearer focus on population-level health outcomes…”

It went on to say that since 2018 ICSs have supported a “bottom-up response to the big health and care challenges…They have improved health, developed better and more seamless services and ensured public resources are used where they can have the greatest impact.”

Despite this, in its response to the paper, the BMA announced its “profound reservations”, particularly due to “a serious lack of clarity regarding the practical implications of transferring CCG powers to ICSs…”.

“This lack of clarity means that the potential changes to CCGs are a source of significant concern for GPs and GP partners, who may face significant changes to their working lives as a consequence, and NHS England must provide complete clarity on where and to which bodies CCG powers may be transferred.”

The legislative framework to underpin such changes featured in the recently published Department of Health and Social Care White Paper on ‘Integration and innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all’. This overall approach also builds on the NHS Long Term Plan: Breaking down barriers to better health and care and opens up an opportunity for discussions between the NHS and its partners about how ICSs can be embedded and brought to life as the new legislation is passed.

What are ICSs?

ICSs are partnerships that bring together NHS, local authority, and third sector bodies to take on collective responsibility for the resources and health of an area. They will plan, pay for and deliver health and care services, with the aim to deliver better, more integrated care for patients.

Will there be any direct allocation of CCGs to ICSs?

CCGs are already mapped to ICSs which are mapped here: NHS England » What are integrated care systems?

What does this mean for primary care networks? 

Integrated care systems (ICSs) are to become statutory bodies. General practice is represented on ICSs by PCNs, making the role of PCNs even more important.

For more information, The King’s Fund has developed a short explainer of the changes.