A public consultation is set to be launched in the coming weeks to seek public views about how the planning and funding of NHS services for Reading people might change.
At the moment, most of Reading’s NHS spending (or ‘commissioning’ as it is formally called) is decided by Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (BWCCG) – made up of local GPs and officials from Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire. (This group itself was formed by a 2018 merger of four separate CCGs, including two in Reading).
However, the creation in June this year of a new partnership structure - known as the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care System (BOB ICS) - has raised the possibility that the three CCGs (Berkshire West CCG, Oxfordshire CCG and Buckinghamshire CCG) across BOB will merge into a single body controlling a budget of around £2.5bn. The NHS Long Term Plan said in January it expected that a ‘typical ICS’ should have only one CCG and CCGs generally are expected to make a 20 per cent saving in running costs by next year.
Cathy Winfield, chief officer of Berkshire West CCG, confirmed that a merger was under consideration and the public would be formally consulted, when she addressed the CCG's AGM and governing body meeting on 10 September 2019.
In response to a question from Healthwatch Reading about how a larger, single CCG would be able to consider the specific needs of Reading people against those of people living in four other boroughs, Ms Winfield said 'there would still be [CCG] boots on the ground' in our area. The existing Berkshire West Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) would also stay in place to keep a focus on what people across Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire needed, Ms Winfield added.
The ICP is made up of Berkshire West CCG, the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust which runs the main hospital, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust which runs community and mental health services, primary care networks of doctors surgeries, and the three local authorities for Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire that fund social care services.
The public consultation was likely to take place between beginning of October and Christmas.
Within the BOB geography there are five local Healthwatch (including Healthwatch Reading) which collect patient experiences, speak up for vulnerable people and campaign for improvements; five local authorities who fund adults and children’s social care and public health services, and a further nine district councils.