The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership

Double your money

HSJ revealed on Friday that Jeremy Hunt wants a big promise on cancer to be a core plank of the government’s new NHS plan, with senior figures pushing for the service’s £7.5bn cancer budget to be doubled over the longer term.

It’s understood high-level talks have focused on driving up early diagnosis, rather than the traditional NHS emphasis on treatment times. Insiders said new targets on pushing up the number of cancer diagnoses made at stages one and two, from circa 50 per cent to as much as 80 per cent have been floated.

It would be surprising, to say the least, had a significant pledge on cancer not been under discussion for the plan, and headline details are expected in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, the scale and the focus of the discussions is eye-catching.

It also follows many in the sector pleading for pragmatism. Provider chiefs say efforts should first focus on fixing existing problems including finance, workforce and waiting times performance, before pledging cash on new targets.

Few would disagree that addressing the NHS’s comparatively poor cancer outcomes should form a part of any credible long-term NHS plan.

But the government will really have to be pushing towards the generous end of the funding increase to make big but credible promises on cancer, as well as on addressing the existing problems.

Indeed, a credible plan to address the existing problems would most likely gobble up all the cash…..and then some. Ministers must make some difficult choices in the coming weeks about what they won’t do.

And breathe

NHS leaders will be breathing a sigh of relief after union members overwhelmingly accepted the government’s pay deal – which offers an average 6.5 per cent increase spread over three years.

Members of 13 bodies, including Unison and the Royal College of Nursing, have accepted the proposed Agenda for Change uplift, following an agreement between ministers and union leaders in March.

However, the unions were quick to stress that the pay issue had not been put to bed completely.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “This deal marks a step in the right direction but the bigger leap to truly fair pay still needs to be taken.

“It does give a genuine pay rise to over one million people from next month and that cannot be underestimated in challenging economic times.”

The government has so far indicated that the uplift would be fully funded with an additional £4bn, and NHS providers will expect to see that honoured.