MORE concerns have been raised over a potential merger of Cheshire and Merseyside NHS services.

An NHS England consultation into the planned introduction of integrated care systems (ICS) across the country from April 2022 has just closed, which would replace clinical commissioning groups in some cases.

In Cheshire, it would mean the county’s NHS Cheshire CCG could be scrapped — despite only being created in April 2020 — to make way for a Cheshire-Merseyside ICS.

At a meeting of Cheshire East Council’s health scrutiny committee, councillors outlined their concerns over the move to regional NHS officials.

Cllr Stewart Gardiner said: “I read this report and I read it in stages because it was causing my blood to boil.

“When I read these reports I find myself almost re-reading Orwell’s books. There appears to be a top down approach to how health is delivered and managed. Surely the whole process we have been working with over the last ten years has been [based on the idea] that the needs of local communities are best served by those on the ground.

“I fear that [this] will mean the Liverpool City Region will get all the money and make all the decisions. The decisions we determine at a local level will be those that could be problems that are palmed off on us.”

Fellow Conservative member Patrick Redstone added: “As you have seen there is cross party support against this proposal. We are suspicious.

“What happens when large organisations take over from smaller ones is that people at a ground level, like our residents, are not heard and this is really my fundamental fear.”

Other skeptic included Cllr Janet Clowes, as she felt the requirement of only having  two elected council members on the ICS’ new board from CEC was not enough, given the fact that the council ‘spends between 55 and 70 per cent of its overall’ budget on social care.

Alan Yates, representing the Cheshire and Merseyside healthcare partnership, responded to the qualms by saying: “I agree with Cllr Clowes and there are those risks but we minimise those risks if we work together and prosecute them.

“I am not going to sit in this meeting and neglect Cheshire. One of the things we are talking about is moving our headquarters our of Liverpool after Covid.

“We have been made to feel more welcome by Cheshire then the Liverpool City Region and that makes a very substantial difference in working together in partnership.”

Clare Watson, Accountable Officer for the NHS Cheshire CCG added that in the proposed merger, CEC ‘needed to make its voice heard’.

Last week, Cheshire West’s own health scrutiny committee shared similar concerns about the initiative.