A NEW clinical commission group following the planned merger of Warrington and Halton could be in place next April.

CCGs are clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for specific areas.

But uncertainty surrounds the future of many, as NHS England sets its sights on reducing running costs.

The proposals to merge Warrington and Halton CCGs have been met with concern from politicians, including Warrington Borough Council (WBC) leader Cllr Russ Bowden.

He has written to Bill McCarthy, NHS Improvements' regional director for the north west.

In the letter, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Bowden says: "I write as leader of the local authority to express our grave concerns adopted by Warrington NHS CCG in relation to the potential options relating to its future.

"I write to ask whether the decision to reconfigure the CCG can be delayed by a period of three months to enable us to work through the integration of tactical commissioning with the local authority at place level.

"We have had a number of discussions with the CCG at council committees regarding their explicit desire for closer working with the council at place level and, while these have superficially been positive, I am afraid the track record of our CCG demonstrates that these expressed wishes are not reinforced by action.

"Just four months ago Warrington CCG denied any possibility of a merger with Halton CCG, despite the fact that a joint management team had been established."

Both of the governing bodies for the CCGs met separately earlier this week to discuss the plans.

Each confirmed that their recommendation to the membership was to progress the option of a merger which, in effect, would mean closing down both CCGs and creating a new one.

The GP membership will be making the decision.

Members were balloted with a deadline for response of yesterday (Friday September 27).

If the membership votes and agrees to the move, the CCG would need to submit the application to NHS England by September 30, which is the NHS England deadline for CCGs to apply should they wish to merge by April 2020.

If the merger application was to be approved, the transition to close both CCGs and create a new one would begin, with the new one planned to become live on April 1, 2020.

But Warrington CCG has moved to reassure senior figures at WBC, as well as residents.

A spokesman said: "Following the NHS England directive to reduce running costs by 20 per cent and the publication of the NHS long-term plan, which places a clear focus on the development of 'place' and streamlining of commissioning we have been working to identify and evaluate all potential options to meet these requirements.

"Although the mandated timescales have been tight, a thorough and robust process has been followed and we can confirm that meetings have taken place since July between the senior officers of the CCG and the local authority.

"The local authority advised that we would receive their formal response on September 20 and we provided them with assurance that no decision would be made until this was received and considered.

"Following an extensive discussion, the governing body considered the points raised by the local authority, the majority of which had been addressed within the final case for change.

"We appreciate that given the local authority response was written on September 4, prior to them receiving the case for change, at the point of writing the response they would not have had all the information required to inform their view.

"In terms of the commitment to the development of ‘place’ this remains to be the focus and is clearly detailed in the case for change.

"Warrington is developing well with regards to local integrated commissioning, with a very local borough-based focus on ‘place’.

"Again, this will not change and we believe that this will in fact be strengthened as we progress the integration of commissioning across the CCG and the local authority.

"We would also like to provide assurance that none of the proposed changes affect patient facing services in any way.

"The proposals refer to changes that are restricted to the CCG governance and corporate, back office functions.

"Patients will not see a difference, services will remain local, nothing is going to close, move or change as a result of the proposals."