Three groups that plan and fund NHS services across Reading, Wokingham, West Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire could be merged into a single body.

Plans to merge the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will be consulted on before Christmas, the chief officer of Berkshire West CCG confirmed at the group’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) today (Tuesday, September 10).

Cathy Winfield, chief officer, also discussed the merger at West Berkshire CCG’s governing body meeting, which followed the AGM.

She said there will still be “boots on the ground” if the merger happens.

The consultation is in draft form currently and the CCG aims to publish the consultation before Christmas.

Rebecca Curtayne, team manager at Healthwatch Reading, asked what steps are being taken to ensure commissioning doesn’t become too removed from local people and to ensure the different needs of an urban centre like Reading are not lost.

Ms Winfield said: “The Berkshire West Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) will stay in place.

“We will still have the CCG, NHS Foundation Trust and ICP working together.

“There will still be boots on the ground.”

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It was announced in June that health and care organisations across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West (BOB) area will join up as the BOB Integrated Care Scheme.

The aim of this integrated system is for the organisations across the three areas to work more closely "to serve the needs of 1.8 million people".

Ms Winfield said the BOB ICS will be small strategic operation for “those things where you need the benefit of scale”.

Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West have previously worked together as a Sustainability and Transformation Partnership.

The potential merger of the CCGs, which are responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for their local area, would further integrate the BOB area.

Ms Winfield, chief officer at Berkshire West CCG, also announced that Berkshire West has been given a ‘Requires Improvement’ rating by the NHS.

The NHS gives four ratings to CCGS based on their annual performance: ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’, ‘Requires Improvement’ and ‘Inadequate’.

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Ms Winfield said the reason for the CCG’s “disappointing” rating was that it had taken on a deficit to enable the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust to win £9 million in funding.