Moving towards strategic commissioning: impact on clinical commissioning groups as membership organizations

Lynsey Warwick-Giles, Imelda McDermott*, Kath Checkland, Valerie Moran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objective: This paper aims to explore the nature of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England as membership organizations. Utilizing the concept of meta-organization as a lens, we discuss the impact that this organizational form might have on CCGs’ ability to become ‘strategic commissioners’. Methods: We used a longitudinal qualitative approach to explore the adoption and implementation of primary care co-commissioning. The study was undertaken between May 2015 and June 2017 and included interviews with senior policy makers, analysis of policy documents, two telephone surveys, and case studies in four CCGs nationally. Results: CCGs operate as membership organizations with closed boundary and low stratification, whereby a consensus or majority needs to be reached by members when activities impact on membership or the CCG’s constitution. While CCGs should move towards a more strategic commissioning role that is focused on local priorities agreed by their members, they are faced with a complex system of accountabilities and responsibilities, which makes this difficult to achieve. Conclusions: The nature of CCGs as membership-based meta-organizations has the potential to both help and hinder CCGs in becoming strategic commissioners. The complexities in accountability and governance that the membership approach introduces, and the potential difficulties that CCGs face with competing meta-organizations, raises questions about the future of CCGs as membership organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-29
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Health Services Research and Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • membership organization
  • strategic commissioning
  • strategic purchasing


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