‘Redundancies likely’ as health authorities across the region look to merge

Health bosses across mid and south Essex have revealed that the five organisations tasked with managing healthcare are likely to merge into one by 2021 with redundancies expected.

The plan would mean that the five local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) responsible for making vital decisions about healthcare in towns and boroughs across the region will cease to exist, replaced with a single mid and south Essex CCG.

While no formal decision has been made for the merger to go ahead, NHS England directed the CCGs to compile plans by September with the goal of completing the merger by April 2021.

The bosses of each CCG will meet in the coming weeks to start putting those plans into motion.

When Thurrock’s CCG was asked about what this would mean for members of staff, they stressed that the plans were still at a very early stage and redundancies would always be a “last resort”. However they admitted that some were “likely” and initially these will be among senior staff members.

Others could be offered voluntary redundancy, a reductions in hours or be provided support in finding other jobs within the NHS.

Councillors from both Southend and Thurrock told the Local Democracy Reporting Service in July that they believed NHS England was keeping them in the dark over the plan after the CCGs were notified of the merger plans but councils were not.

This is despite local authorities working in partnership with the CCGs on schemes ranging from mental health strategies and child social care to tackling public health issues and special educational needs.

The leader of Thurrock Council, Councillor Rob Gledhill, warned at the time that the merger would result in “irreparable damage to the health service” and be “a huge challenge because of the sheer size of the area”.

In a joint statement, Accountable Officers from each of the five CCGs sought to provide reassurance.

They said: “At the heart of our plan is a commitment to focus future commissioning decisions on ‘place-based’ or ‘locality’ planning and delivery of services.

“We will ensure that the central objective for the local NHS is delivering better patient outcomes and our core principle will be that commissioning issues should be dealt with at the most local level.

“We are seeking to show how there will be as much, if not more involvement for local communities than the current arrangements allow.”

They added: “We recognise the strength of our local partnerships and the joined-up working they make possible, as this is the best way to improve outcomes for our residents.”

The five CCGs expected to merge will include Basildon and Brentwood, Castle Point and Rochford, Mid Essex, Southend, and Thurrock.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter