AREAS facing huge NHS deficits would not be subsidised by their financially solvent neighbours, a meeting over proposals to merge the NHS groups in charge of services for residents of Teesside, Durham and Darlington has heard.

NHS director of commissioning, strategy and delivery Michael Houghton confirmed while the five clinical commissioning groups (CCG) preferred option to meet Government requirements was to create single Tees Valley CCG and a single Durham CCG, with a continued shared management structure, this would not negatively affect patient services.

A Darlington Borough Council health scrutiny committee meeting heard the existing five CCGs buy, plan and monitor NHS services for 1.2 million residents.

They commission hospital care, urgent and emergency care, rehabilitative care, most community health services, mental health services and learning disability services.

Mr Houghton said while the CCGs were already working collaboratively, by the merger could help achieve the mandatory 20 per cent cut in running costs, reduce service inequalities between areas and improve outcomes for patients.

He said the merger would strengthen the voice of the CCGs to commission at scale while still having an understanding of local needs.

Councillor Wendy Newall questioned if the previous CCGs would have their budgets ringfenced and highlighted that Hartlepool and Stockton CCG had a £12m deficit, South Tees CCG had been put into special measures and had an £8m deficit, while Darlington CCG was breaking even.

Other members raised concerns that the merger would see NHS funding for Darlington residents being used to plug shortfalls in other areas.

Mr Houghton said: “We wouldn’t want to put any of the localities in jeopardy that aren’t in jeopardy. The fund that we have got for local areas stays with local areas. We are not looking to move Darlington funding to Stockton and Stockton funding to Darlington. The funding stays with the population. It’s really hard to do that anyway as we have money invested in services and services need to be paid for. Where we have got an area where we are spending more on services than we have an income coming in then we have to address that. But we won’t address that by moving money from one area to offset another area.

“Where we have got one case that could really bankrupt an area, there might be a way that we could smooth out the impact on that particular area, but that would be the only time that we would do it.”

The five CCGs will decide whether to recommend the merger next month.


NHS North of England Commissioning Support Unit has disputed the deficits which Cllr Newall stated for Hartlepool and Stockton CCG and South Tees CCG, which were confirmed at the meeting by Michael Houghton, Darlington CCG director of commissioning.

An NHS North of England Commissioning Support Unit spokesman said rather than having a £12m deficit for the last financial year Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG broke even.

The NHS spokesman added South Tees CCG had a deficit of £5m rather than the stated £8m, but then broke even after receiving planned £5m Commissioner Sustainability Funding.