Published: 09:25, 12 September 2019
| Updated: 09:42, 12 September 2019
Doctors in west Kent have voted in favour of shaking up the way health services are planned across the county.
Kent and Medway is currently served by eight clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which buy and plan healthcare for their parts of the county, but next year they could be combined.
At a meeting at Hollingbourne's Mercure Great Danes Hotel, GPs voted to dissolve West Kent CCG as an entity, with effect from the evening of March 31, 2020, and to establish one, large Kent and Medway CCG from April 1, 2020.
Other CCGs around the county will be holding similar votes over the next week and, if all are in favour, their respective governing bodies will then meet again before the end of the month to decide whether to formally apply for authorisation from NHS England and NHS Improvement.
A final decision would then be expected to be made by mid-November before preparations are made to roll out changes in time for April.
Health chiefs say a single CCG will allow key decisions to be made quicker and reduce management and administration costs, producing savings that could then be pumped back into local care services.
It is also claimed that such a move will increase the county's ability to submit strong bids for funding that my be available as part of work to roll out the NHS' Long Term Plan.
In terms of ensuring the views of patients are heard, it is proposed that the single CCG has a group for patient and public involvement, with representatives from each of the eight existing CCG constituencies providing crucial feedback.
There are some fears, though, that the plan will lead to a lack of local focus, with some areas of the county potentially getting a poorer deal than others, but bosses insist the proposals will in fact allow the consistent commissioning of services such as cancer, mental health, children’s services and prevention.
The public are still invited to provide feedback on the proposals, and can do so via this survey here.