The chief officer driving through the merger of five CCGs in Norfolk and Waveney boasts in a letter to a local councillor of having had responses from 245 members of the public, giving an indication of how few people are being consulted on these changes across the country

As The Lowdown has reported NHS England is stepping up the pressure for groups of CCGs to merge. And while one planned merger – of the six CCGs in Staffordshire – has now been formally scrapped after a majority of GPs in five of the CCGs voted to reject the idea, GPs in other areas appear to be much less savvy and proactive. In Norfolk and Waveney all member GP practices of the CCGs were asked to vote, and 91% of the votes cast were in favour.

Campaigners have argued that one of the reasons behind the drive to merge CCGs into such large units is to further minimise any local voice or dissent while controversial closures and downgrades of hospitals and services are pushed through, although few CCGs have any great track record of standing up for local communities.

In  a grim reminder of the lamentable record of many local councils in fighting for local health services, all three Health Overview and Scrutiny Groups for Norfolk, Suffolk and Great Yarmouth and Waveney agreed with CCG bureaucrats a full “public consultation” was not required, and nodded through proposals that will significantly reduce any local accountability of NHS services.

However unlike CCGs, council health and scrutiny committees (which retain powers which date back to the 1970s to delay and challenge changes in services) are comprised of elected members.

So despite their current feeble showing they could yet be made into a last vestige of local accountability in the event of any controversial changes in an increasingly monolithic and bureaucratic “integrated” NHS.

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