HSJ’s round-up of Friday’s must read stories and debate

1.2 million half-time oranges required

The official mid-year performance figures suggest the NHS provider sector is heading for a combined deficit of £669m at the end of 2016-17, which would be £89m worse than planned.

The forecast, published on Friday afternoon by NHS Improvement, includes the benefit of the £1.8bn sustainability and transformation fund, so would equate to an underlying deficit of £2.47bn. Although this would be worse than 2015-16’s reported deficit of £2.45bn, it would be a significant improvement on the underlying deficit, which was thought to be £3.7bn.The report makes no mention of the £250m deficit “stretch target” for the sector.

HSJ has previously reported how trusts’ financial savings are heavily “backloaded” to the second half of the year, meaning there are significant risks still in play.

This is shown by the actual year to date deficit, which is only around £70m better than at the same stage last year, once STF is discounted.

Data collected directly from trusts by HSJ and published earlier this month suggested a year-end deficit of around £850m. However, NHSI chief executive Jim Mackey suggested this may have included overly pessimistic initial forecasts from trusts.

And like a football manager taking one game at a time, Mr Mackey sounded optimistic about the chances of the NHS turning things around by the end of the financial year. “No one should underestimate the challenge of turning around a very difficult financial position for the NHS. But, thanks to a phenomenal effort by staff across the NHS, we’re 1-0 up at half-time,” he said.

“We can’t allow ourselves to be complacent. We know that we’ve got a lot of hard work still to do, and we’ll need each and every person within the NHS to play their part.”

Trust acts quickly to fill leadership gap

This week’s Deep South newsletter argued that Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust quickly needed to recruit a permanent chief executive, after its first attempt failed when appointee Julie Hartley-Jones declined to take up the post.

Well, the trust has been no slouch – less than two weeks after Ms Hartley-Jones’ announcement, Royal Devon and Exeter has made an appointment.

Suzanne Tracey, the trust’s chief financial officer and deputy chief executive, has been made permanent CEO with immediate effect.

Ms Tracey’s has been on Royal Devon and Exeter’s executive team for eight years, and has acted as interim chief exec since the departure of Angela Pedder this summer.

The trust has had a rocky few weeks, but with her knowledge of the trust and local health economy Ms Tracey appears well placed to take the organisation forward.

In the green

HSJ’s map, tracking which sustainability and transformation plans have been published so far, has got notably greener this week.

As of Friday, 22 of the 44 patches have published their plan and switched from “no publication” red.

Explore the map to see the 22 STP documents released so far, and links to HSJ’s unrivalled coverage.