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

Trusts’ days of “hiding behind the data” are over, two NHS England leads have warned, as they vowed to crack down on those falling behind on tackling workplace inequality.

Jenni Douglas-Todd and Mike Franklin have insisted they will “call out what needs to be called out” in their first interview since becoming joint heads of equality and inclusion.

The stern words have come after the latest annual workforce race equality standard data, yet again, found modest-but-not-quite-enough improvement.

This has again led to critics questioning whether the WRES actually works, while two of its former directors have suggested a “reboot”.

Ms Douglas-Todd told HSJ this is already happening and added: “We’re not sitting here… just constantly looking at the data and praising ourselves, and others, for thinking that we’ve made a change. We want to know that change is substantial.”

Mr Franklin also said part of their jobs is to “defend, defend, defend, defend” equality, diversity and inclusion resources amid a difficult climate for public sector finances.

He said: “It’s clear that the economy is in difficulty and, in my lifetime, whenever there’s been a press on resources, equality, diversity and inclusion issues are the ones that suffer.”

Great expectations

Additional money to meet the NHS’ additional and unavoidable costs of tackling covid was conspicuous by its absence in the chancellor’s Budget last week. NHS Providers estimated it would be as much as an £8bn shortfall in the first half of next year.

That is based on half the sum the NHS is expected to spend in 2020-21 to meet the costs of fighting covid, on top of its baseline budget agreed in the five-year spending agreement in 2019.

The financial year is very nearly up and there is still a sizeable gap in the prospective NHS funding agreement yet to be filled.

Sir Simon Stevens was before the health select committee yesterday to talk about the government white paper on integration. But before he could get on to that, committee chair Jeremy Hunt and others quizzed the mandarin on the funding shortfall.

There is an “urgent need” to secure additional funding beyond what the Treasury has already announced in the budget, Sir Simon said. Things had moved on somewhat since the November spending review set budgets for the coming FY, not least because “the majority of covid hospitalised patients that we’ve been looking after have been admitted since”.

The NHS had “an incredibly tough December, January and February. There are going to be continuing covid related needs and costs spilling into the new financial year”.

Happily, there is the “expectation” that the NHS will get more funding to cover “those unavoidable covid costs, certainly in the first half of the year”.

While he may be quietly confident he can get what the NHS needs this time, Sir Simon also warned mandarins and ministers that this will not be the last time the NHS will need a fillip this year.

It has been given £1bn to address a backlog in elective procedures. This is “a very important start”, Sir Simon said.

But he does not know the size and shape of the waiting lists at the end of 2021-22. There will be a spending review in the autumn, a chance for government to “take stock” and “make decisions in the round”.

This is clearly not the last round in the fight to bolster the NHS budget.