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NHS campaigners in North London are claiming that moves to create a single Clinical Commissioning Group by merging the five existing CCGs, one for each borough (Enfield, Barnet, Haringey, Islington and Camden), are in breach of the law.

delivering improved outcomes cover

North Central London NHS Watch believes that merging five borough clinical commissioning groups, as set out in this recently published document, would reduce responsiveness to local needs and would not be lawful, as it has not been properly consulted on.

A letter protesting about the proposal was sent this week to North London Partners in Health and Care by Alan Morton, chair of North Central London NHS Watch, an umbrella group working on behalf of groups in the five London boroughs in North Central London campaigning for an NHS which is publicly funded, publicly delivered and publicly accountable, and available to all on the basis of clinical need.

Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are the NHS bodies that buy clinical services from providers in both the public sector (eg hospitals) and private sector (eg GP surgeries). The plan to create a single CCG for North London was published, with little or no publicity, by North London Partners in Health and Care in August, in a document with the title Delivering improved outcomes for North Central London residents: Changing the way we work together.

North London Partners describes itself as "North Central London's sustainability and transformation partnership". Its role is to plan and implement radical changes to the way the NHS operates in the five boroughs with the aim of both improving "patient outcomes" and making it "sustainable" (ie cheaper to run).

North London Partners proposes to merge the CCGs by April 2020, submitting an application to do this to NHS England this month. Mr Morton's contention is that under law the changes contemplated must be regarded as either the dissolution of the CCGs and the creation of a single new CCG, or a major constitutional change. According to the NHS England guidance, for such a dissolution or constitutional change of CCGs, North London Partners must show that they have taken steps to engage the public whose health care may be affected by this change. Each CCG must supply NHSE with evidence of the stakeholder engagement it has undertaken and how the CCG has taken the views of stakeholders into account. Furthermore, CCGs must consider the views of the whole population covered by their service, whether currently a patient or not.

Mr Morton says that NCL NHS Watch believes that the proposed merger would make service commissioners less responsive to local needs and that local services would be cut to fill deficits elsewhere in North Central London. He concludes by stating that the five CCGs will be outside the law if they proceed with the application without first carrying out full public consultation.

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