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

Exit plans

With the UK fewer than 40 working days away from leaving the EU, the NHS nationally is ramping up its exit prep.

This week, the government’s operational response centre has gone live. This means the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, NHS Improvement and Public Health England will work together to respond to “any disruption” that results from a no-deal Brexit.

As part of this, Keith Willett, de facto commander of NHS England’s EU exit strategy, told providers they will “shortly” be asked to start collecting data about how they are coping with the impact of Brexit.

No doubt, for trusts already pressed by day-to-day running, this will be met with joy.

In other news, HSJ has warned of a Spanish nurse exodus due to a little known Spanish regulatory law. 

Spanish nationals currently accrue points from their work in Britain that can later be used on Spain’s public health job exchange. But, under a no-deal Brexit, NHS experience will no longer be recognised in Spain, prompting a number of Spanish nurses to reconsider their options.

One nurse, now working for NHS Digital, said Spanish nurses would no longer choose to work in the UK after Brexit and those who currently do would leave.

DHSC said it would “seek to put in place arrangements to ensure that nursing qualifications and experience gained within the NHS are recognised in EU member states in the same way that they are in other countries”.

However, with one trust warning that it is about to lose all its Spanish theatre staff over this issue, the department may have left it rather late.

Two trusts, one chair

Two major London acute providers are going to share a chair for at least the next two years.

Sir Hugh Taylor, currently sitting at the head of the illustrious boardroom table at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, is to chair King’s College Hospital FT as well on an interim basis.

It is an unprecedented move for trusts of this size and importance. Sir Hugh is taking on a trust with a somewhat challenging financial position – it anticipates a year-end deficit north of £140m – and some performance issues too.

He is clear in his ambitions for the two providers. First, he will “stabilise and improve financial and operation performance”. Then, he will build “collaborative working and decision making between [the] trusts”.

This is the first clear effort to integrate the two providers since an abortive 2012 attempt to merge them, with South London and the Maudsley, into a super-provider turning over what would now be more than £2bn.

Sir Hugh said work to bring the two trusts closer together will not require a merger. Instead, he said he wants Guy’s and King’s to remain as two organisations “but, increasingly, two organisations with one voice”.