PLANS to reduce the number of Clinical Commissioning Groups across the region due to funding and staff shortages have been sent out for consultation.

Health officials are considering merging the five CCGs covering Darlington; Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield; Hartlepool and Stockton; North Durham and South Tees, having been asked to reduce their running costs by 20 per cent by March 31.

The options include a single CCG or two CCGs, Tees Valley CCG and Durham CCG with a continued shared management structure.

Bosses say if the structure remains as five separate CCGs, it may not be possible to fulfil their responsibilities with "significantly less staff".

They believe having two single CCGs instead of the five is the preferred option, and merging will allow a more streamlined approach to commissioning and simplifying governance arrangements, allowing the new organisations to be more efficient, saving money from management to direct towards patient care

Many existing teams already work across Durham and the Tees Valley, so the merge would not affect frontline services, according to health officials.

Dr Neil O’Brien, accountable officer for Tees Valley and Durham Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), said: “We are currently exploring the possibility of merging our CCGs as the next appropriate step of our collaborative working.

“Since October 2018 we have had one Accountable Officer and management team for the five CCGs in our area. We are currently engaging with patients, our GP ‘members’, partners and stakeholders to shape how we move forward.

“No decision on the future of our CCGs will be made until our August Governing Body meetings, with a view to potentially submitting any application at the end of August.

“North Durham CCG and Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield CCG are due to meet in common on August 27 and South Tees CCG, Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG and Darlington CCG will meet on August 28.

“Further details on any potential CCG changes will be available in the Governing Body papers published on each CCG website prior to the meetings.”

CCGs took over responsibility for planning, buying and monitoring local health services in April 2013.

Between them in the North-East, they commission NHS services for a population of more than one million people

To give your views on the proposals, visit The deadline for feedback is July 31.

You can contact your local Healthwatch for more information.