MPs support greater flexibility for CCGs

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MPs have approved regulations to allow clinical commissioning groups to form working groups to commission health and social care services for their communities.

The House voted by 276 to 152 in favour of the draft order after a short debate on 9 September 2014.

There are 211 GP-led CCGs in England, which are responsible for commissioning the vast majority of NHS services. They control a large proportion of the NHS budget.

Health Minister Norman Lamb said the current lack of provisions to allow CCGs to work collaboratively with one another or NHS England when exercising their commissioning functions is placing a burden on them and preventing them from working in the most effective and efficient way.

"Without the power to form joint committees CCGs have had to find other means of reaching joint decisions which are binding.

"Of course that means they often end up seeking legal advice to ensure that they're on a firm footing, that adds to cost and complexity without a proper process in place," Mr Lamb told the House.

The minister stressed that the proposed arrangements would be voluntary, allowing CCGs to "retain their autonomy".

Labour supported the proposed changes "in principle", but raised concerns about the regulations.

"Many CCGs do feel that they are coming under increasing pressure from NHS England and some of its local offices, and they're concerned that this draft order could take away their autonomy forcing them into committees and decisions they don't think are in the best interests of local people," shadow health minister Liz Kendall said.

However, Mr Lamb intervened to reiterate that the arrangements are voluntary, and said CCGs would not be forced to do anything they did not want to do.

The minister added: "If they feel under pressure, they have every right to resist that if they feel it's in their interest or in the interest of their local community to do so."

Labour backbencher Graham Stringer voiced his opposition to the regulations, fearing that a majority of CCGs in a working group could "impose" a decision on others.

However, the House sided with the government and the regulations were passed by a majority of 124.

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