Clinic groups join forces in health change

NORTH Tyneside’s two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are to be merged.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) – which used to be known as GP consortia – are at the heart of the government’s plans to reform the NHS and put local clinicians in charge of health spending on behalf of patients.

The borough’s two groups, CareFirst and Engage Health, which have always worked closely together, have decided to work even closer as one clinical commissioning group but within two localities.

Dr Jane Weatherstone, of Engage Health, and Dr John Matthews, of CareFirst, will be co-chairs of the newly named North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group and the two localities will retain their GP practice membership.

North Tyneside CCG is working with NHS North of Tyne, the current commissioners of NHS services, to start taking on new responsibilities, subject to the NHS Bill being passed.

It is planned for the future the CCG to commission all health services for the 215,000 population of the borough with a budget of £305m.

Dr Matthews said he was pleased for the groups to merge, particularly given the challenges new NHS commissioners faced in the future.

“Unfortunately in North Tyneside we have more people with chronic health conditions compared to the national situation, and we face a huge challenge to address those areas where levels of health lag well behind those of the rest of the country,” he said.

“We need to close this gap by addressing the health of the whole community, but our greatest challenges are in tackling the inequalities evident in the variation of life expectancy across the borough.

“This, along with an increasing aging population means we need to develop better approaches to care planning for those people with complex health needs, and North Tyneside CCG is ideally placed to make changes to support the further health improvement of local people.”

Dr Weatherstone said the two groups joining forces was a natural progression for the borough.

She said: “While health services in North Tyneside receive consistently good quality ratings for the services they provide, we still rely far too much on hospital-based care compared with the health of our population – and GP led commissioners are in a good place to change this. We will be better able to do this as one organisation.

“Hospital admissions per 1,000 population are 26 per cent higher than the national average and the NHS can’t afford this in the future.

“We need to make changes to how we manage and treat patients with much more emphasis on good quality care closer to home and in the community instead of going to hospital.”

Chris Reed, chief executive of NHS North of Tyne, which works on behalf of Newcastle and North Tyneside Primary Care Trusts and Northumberland Care Trust, said: “We’re pleased with the progress the North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group has made so far – and coming together can only strengthen the excellent relationships they have developed across primary and secondary care in the borough.”