TWO Wirral health chiefs have “stepped away” from their posts while NHS England conducts a probe into how local NHS services are run.

Chairman Dr Phil Jennings and the chief clinical officer of Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Dr Abhi Mantgani, have voluntarily moved aside while the inquiry takes place into the authority, which is responsible for commissioning local NHS services for patients

NHS England’s regional operations director in the north, Jon Develing, is to step in as interim accountable officer for the commissioning group.

Last week Birkenhead MP Frank Field sent a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt criticising the relationship between “senior members” of the CCG and Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and called for an inquiry into the matter.

Mr Field questioned the “strong bond” between the two organisations and claimed relationships between the two may have dented the “independence” and “integrity” of local health services.

He said he was concerned that decisions may have been taken “that do not reflect the will of all its members or the public”.

As well as calling for a review of the CCG's decision making process, Mr Field also asked for the inquiry to look at "the status of the chair and his eligibility to hold this post".

A spokesman for the CCG said: “We can confirm that following a number of concerns raised with regards to the senior leadership at the CCG, NHS England are carrying out a full and thorough capability and capacity review which will investigate all of the issues raised.

“NHS Wirral CCG are co-operating fully with NHS England and have voluntarily requested the support of NHS England whilst the review is carried out.

“We can also confirm that the accountable officer and chair have volunteered to temporarily step away from their duties whist the review takes place.

“In terms of interim arrangements, Jon Develing, regional director of operations and delivery NHS England North, has been asked to support the CCG as interim accountable officer and Dr Peter Naylor will take up the role of acting chair.

“We would like to assure local people that this will not impact on local service delivery and we are committed to ensuring that the delivery of excellent health care services to local people remains to be our key focus.”

In his letter, Mr Field said: “Arrowe Park has a long history of not being able properly to manage its budget.

"It regularly looks around for further funds to which it demands almost immediate access but is unprepared to make any efforts at reforming its own practices.

"Closures, sackings and loss of patient services has been its traditional negative stance.

"The CCG therefore has the near impossible task of winning reform in the face of these negotiating tactics.”

A spokesman for Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said last week: "The working and contracting relationship between Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust as a provider of health services and the CCG as a commissioner is conducted entirely in line with our constitution.  

"All aspects of the Trust’s relationship with the CCG have been conducted in an open and transparent way.

“The Trust is committed to working in partnership with the CCG and other health partners to deliver high quality healthcare that meets the needs of the communities it serves and which reflect the changing needs of the population.

“Whilst we are currently experiencing the very difficult financial challenges that are affecting the NHS as a whole in balancing increased demand with finite resources, the Trust’s history has been one of financial stability and innovation in the delivery of healthcare, evidenced by numerous external validations and accreditations.

“Patient care has always, and will continue to be at the heart of all our decision making.”