Clinical commissioning group

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Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are NHS organisations set up by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to organise the delivery of NHS services in England.[1]

To a certain extent they replace primary care trusts (PCTs), though some of the staff and responsibilities moved to Local Authority Public Health teams when PCTs ceased to exist in April 2013. Services directly provided by PCTs were reorganised through the Transforming Community Services programme.

Structure and membership[edit]

CCGs are clinically led groups that include all of the GP groups in their geographical area. The aim of this is to give GPs and other clinicians the power to influence commissioning decisions for their patients.[1][2]

CCGs are overseen by NHS England (including its Regional Offices and Area Teams). These structures manage primary care commissioning, including holding the NHS Contracts for GP practices NHS.[3]

Each CCG has a constitution and is run by its governing body. Each has to have an accountable officer responsible for the CCG’s duties, functions, finance and governance. Most CCGs initially appointed former PCT managers to these posts.[4] Only a quarter of accountable officers were GPs in October 2014, but 80% of CCG Chairs were GPs.[5] Only half of GP practices said they felt involved in CCG decision making processes.[6] The Health and Social Care Act 2012 provides that the areas specified in the constitutions of clinical commissioning groups together cover the whole of England, and do not coincide or overlap. Each CCG is responsible for persons who are provided with primary medical services by a member of the group, and persons who usually reside in the group’s area and are not provided with primary medical services by a member of any clinical commissioning group.

E-reward, an online pay research service, analysed the pay of more than 2,500 managers at the 211 CCGs in England in 2015. They reported that 56% of 225 top executives – chief officers and chief finance officers – were paying themselves more than the salary range recommended by NHS England of £95,000 to £125,000 a year.[7]

Unite the Union surveyed the 3,392 CCG board members in 2015 and reported that 513 were directors of private healthcare companies: 140 owned such businesses and 105 carried out external work for them. More than 400 CCG board members were shareholders in such companies.[8]


CCGs operate by commissioning (or buying) healthcare services including:[1]

  • Elective hospital care
  • Rehabilitation care
  • Urgent and emergency care
  • Most community health services
  • Mental health and learning disability services

Clinical commissioning groups are supposed to work with patients and healthcare professionals and in partnership with local communities and local authorities. On their governing body, each Group has, in addition to GPs, at least one registered nurse and a doctor who is a secondary care specialist. Clinical commissioning groups are responsible for arranging emergency and urgent care services within their boundaries, and for commissioning services for any unregistered patients who live in their area. All GP practices must belong to a clinical commissioning group. As originally established CCGs did not have any responsibility for Primary Care which was commissioned and managed by NHS England. In November 2014 CCGs were invited to become co-commissioners of primary care in their area. They would be responsible for the performance management and budgets of their member GP practices, including managing complaints about practices and GPs. 63 will take on fully delegated responsibility in April 2015 and 87 which will begin "joint commissioning", which involves less responsibility.[9]

Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group, which is chaired by Sam Everington, was awarded Clinical Commissioning Group of the year by the Health Service Journal in November 2014. The judges praised the group’s “strong leadership, especially around clinical leadership, while retaining patient focus.” [10]

A study conducted by the Open University and University College London in May 2015 found that clinical leaders “seemed to be more willing to challenge or ignore diktats and messages from above, and to encourage their managerial colleagues to do the same”. Prof Martin Marshall said clinical leaders were more “focused on outcomes and less interested in processes. They don’t really mind how they do things as long as they feel they’re having an impact” Having the option of returning to full time clinical practice meant that clinicians felt a “degree of freedom in what they say and do”.[11]

Guidance issued in August 2015 provides that if CCGs which have been in special measures for more than a year NHS England can “trigger changes in the management, governance or structure of the CCG’s responsibilities, with the potential for other CCGs or relevant bodies to take over aspects of the local commissioner’s responsibilities”. None have yet been placed in special measures.[12]


The Centre for Health and the Public Interest estimated in 2015 that there were about 53,000 contracts between the NHS in England and the private sector, including contracts for primary care services of which the 211 CCGs currently hold 15,000 with an annual value of about £9.3bn in 2013-14.[13] They sent Freedom of Information requests to all 211 CCGs, seeking information about how they monitor contracts with private providers and concluded that CCGs failed to manage contracts with private providers effectively.[14]

According to Christian Mazzi, head of health at Bain & Company, in September 2015 70% of CCGs had failed to monitor their private sector contracts or enforce quality standards. 12% had not carried out any visits to private providers, but 60% could not say if they had done so.[15]

CCGs are responsible for dealing with Individual Funding Requests in their area.

A survey of CCGs by the Health Service Journal in April 2015 found that more than a third were planning to save money by restricting access to services, particularly on “procedures of limited effectiveness”, podiatry, IVF, and limiting access to procedures based on aspects of a patient’s health, for example whether they smoke or are obese, which can affect outcomes.[16] A similar survey by the GP magazine Pulse, in July 2015, found that many CCGs were planning to restrict access to routine care in various ways.[17]

25 Commissioning Support Units were established in April 2013 by NHS England to provide a variety of support functions, largely staffed by former employees of the Primary Care Trusts. All CCGs were told that they must procure support services by a tender process by April 2015. The first tender, by South Lincolnshire and South West Lincolnshire CCGs was won by OptumHealth with a value of £3 million a year for 3 years.[18]

Incentives and referrals[edit]

It was reported in September 2015 that at least 9 CCGs had set up “ethically questionable” incentive schemes to persuade GPs to reduce referrals for new outpatient attendances, follow-ups, A&E attendances and emergency admissions with payments per practice of up to £11,000. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, of the British Medical Association, condemned them as “a financial contaminant” to patient-doctor trust. The General Medical Council guidance, Financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest provides that a doctor should " not allow any interests you have to affect the way you prescribe for, treat, refer or commission services for patients" but the council accepted that "Finance and other incentives can be an effective way of driving improvements in healthcare."[19]

See also Health care rationing.


The announcement that GPs will take over this commissioning role was made in the 2010 White Paper, "Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS". This was part of the Government's advertised desire to create a clinically driven commissioning system that was more sensitive to the needs of patients. The 2010 White Paper became law under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 in March 2012.

At the end of March 2013 there were 211 CCGs.[20]


All CCGs had to go through an authorisation process. There were four waves of authorisation between July and December 2012.[21]


In 2014 NHS England investigated Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group after Birkenhead MP Frank Field raised concerns about it. They found that the chair and chief clinical officer “did not demonstrate the necessary close working agreement” about what needed to change within the CCG. There were also questions about the relationship senior leaders had with Arrowe Park Hospital. After the report was published Field repeated his calls for the senior officers to stand aside while a new constitution is made for the governance of the group.[22]

In October 2014 it was reported that NHS England were considering a special measures regime for CCGs in difficulties, of which there were said to be about a dozen. Under the current assurance framework, CCGs are rated as “assured”, “assured with support” or “not assured”. Only Barnet CCG has been rated “not assured”.[23]

Public involvement[edit]

Bristol CCG were subject to a legal challenge from a local pressure group, Protect Our NHS, who claimed that their processes for involving patients and the public in their decisions were inadequate. A judicial review was withdrawn in June 2014 after the CCG agreed to amend its patient and public involvement strategy and other documents.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Health and Social Care Act 2012 Schedule 2". UK Government. Retrieved 17 Apr 2013. 
  2. ^ "Bureaucrats return to lead doctors' groups". The Independent. 1 April 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2012. 
  3. ^ "About us". NHS England. Retrieved 17 Apr 2013. 
  4. ^ "Exclusive: over 60 per cent of CCGs choose PCT manager as their leader". Health Service Journal. 14 March 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "GPs hold only a quarter of accountable CCG roles". Health Service Journal. 16 October 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "Fall in GP engagement with CCGs, NHS England survey finds". Health Service Journal. 20 October 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  7. ^ "NHS bureaucrats on more than £140,000: 20 bosses award themselves higher salary than PM". Daily Mail. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  8. ^ "Over a quarter of board members on new bodies commissioning NHS care have links to the private health sector". Independent. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  9. ^ "63 CCGs take control of primary care budgets despite serious misgivings". Health Service Journal. 10 April 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group". Health Service Journal. 22 November 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2014. 
  11. ^ "Clinical leaders 'more willing to challenge diktats', research finds". Health Service Journal. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  12. ^ "'Other bodies' could take powers from failing CCGs". Health Service Journal. 14 August 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  13. ^ "The contracting NHS". Socialist Health Association. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  14. ^ "NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers". Independent. 19 April 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  15. ^ "NHS brings to a halt two years of ‘exuberant’ outsourcing growth". Financial Times. 28 September 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2015. 
  16. ^ "Survey: Third of CCGs consider limiting access amid cash squeeze". Health Service Journal. 21 April 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  17. ^ "NHS treatments such as vasectomies and hip operations to be rationed because of cost-cutting". Independent. 30 July 2015. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  18. ^ "Private firm wins first full commissioning support tender". Health Service Journal. 29 September 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  19. ^ "‘Questionable’ incentives slammed by lead GPs". Onmedica. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  20. ^ "Bulletin for CCGs Issue 31". NHS England. Retrieved 17 Apr 2013. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Critical report says relationship between senior leaders at Wirral health authority has held it back". Liverpool Echo. 10 September 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  23. ^ "Troubled CCGs could face 'special measures' regime". Health Service Journal. 16 October 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  24. ^ "CCG amends involvement strategy as procurement judicial review withdrawn". Local Government Lawyer. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 

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