Created following the Health and Social Care Act in 2012, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have been a major part of the overall NHS structure for the past decade. In July 2022, new commissioning bodies called Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) will replace them.

This blog will discuss the role of CCGs, the upcoming transition to ICSs across England and how this will affect the current NHS structure. 

What Is the Role of CCGs and Why Are They Needed?

CCGs are clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for planning and commissioning healthcare services for each local authority. They are currently responsible for approximately one-third of the total NHS England budget, with around £79.9 billion allocated in 2019-2020. 

Critical to the overall structure of the NHS, CCGs are responsible for the population's health. The role includes strategy and priority planning for all public health providers, such as hospitals, clinics and community health bodies. 

Led by elected governing bodies consisting of GPs, nurses and secondary care consultants, CCGs commission healthcare services for mental health services, emergency and community care. 

In July 2022, all 106 CCGs in England will be dissolved and replaced by the new ICSs. The NHS is continually evolving and ICSs are being introduced to improve outcomes for population health on a more local level.


When Will This Change Happen?

Now that the Health and Social Care Act 2022 has completed its parliamentary process, the transitional process is underway to replace the current CCG structure. 

As a key part of the NHS’s Long Term Plan, ICSs differ greatly from CCGs. They are new collaborations between multiple organisations that meet health and care needs. This aims to improve planning to advance population health and reduce inequalities between different groups and regions across the country. 

The new structure will remove traditional divisions across the entire service, integrating healthcare with local authority services. This will give more flexibility to regional management and as of May 2022, there are currently 42 ISCs in place for the transition. 

Each ICS will have an Integrated Care Board (ICB), a statutory organisation bringing the NHS together locally to plan strategic priorities within the NHS. When ICBs are legally established, clinical commissioning groups will be dissolved.


How Does This Affect the Future of the NHS?

The transition to ICSs will shake up major parts of the current CCG functions with the integration of healthcare, local government and community organisations.

Decisions on how services are arranged and how they will function will be reassessed to meet the needs of each local area. It will be in line with local authority boundaries and regulations. 

A major benefit of an ICS is that arrangements can be adapted to what is needed locally, based on demographics and geographical factors. Due to added flexibility, local healthcare will experience changes depending on the region.

The fragmentation of areas will lead to less inequality between regions across England and give local authorities more power. 

For the start of the transitional process on 1st July 2022, immediate changes will come into effect. This includes modifications to the Organisational Data Service (ODS) data and NHSmail.

This will be followed by the second phase of alterations expected to be made throughout the year. There will also be adjustments to the geographical coverage of some current ICSs due to new boundary changes decided by the government in July 2021.


Considerations for the Transition

With such significant change to everyday services within the NHS, decision makers will need to consider how this should be actioned and why. All decisions need to be made on a national and local level to improve services. 

The new structure will introduce new ways of handling patient care, so all divisions must monitor the overall outcomes of their targets and what can be improved going forward. 

To avoid confusion within their communities, providers should make changes that are easy to understand for patients. Too many adjustments at once could also cause panic, making it essential to phase changes periodically for a smooth ICS transition.

Find Out How the NHS Can Ensure a Seamless Transition

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