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

A worrying disparity

The Care Quality Commission’s decision to upgrade Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s rating from “inadequate” to “requires improvement” drew robust criticism from Healthwatch Suffolk in what represented an interesting intervention.

It said there was “a disparity between what the trust reports, the outcome of this inspection and the experiences of service users and carers [and it had noticed] very little improvement in peoples’ recorded feedback”. 

This followed the CQC’s assessment that “we saw early improvements in almost all areas and a feeling of optimism from staff, but there had not been enough time to judge if these changes would be sustained”.

Of course, it may yet prove to be the case that the cultural, governance and leadership improvements the CQC cited will — and hopefully sooner rather than later — filter through to the front line and patient experience. Turning around a failing organisation is, after all, a marathon not a sprint.

But with patients still reporting a poor experience of the trust’s services, it would appear wise to hold judgement on whether there are genuine green shoots or this is a false dawn.

Winter warmer

Late last year, HSJ reported that NHS England/Improvement were scrambling to provide funding for some hospitals to mitigate a winter performance crisis. Now, further details have emerged.

The centre confirmed around £22m had been allocated to trusts to outsource diagnostic and elective work to the private sector and specifically to support orthopaedic, paediatric, cardiology and gynaecology departments. It also said this money would fund some “insourcing”, as in work passed to another trust.

Perhaps surprisingly, this money was not given to trusts most under the cosh but to those with a proven track record of delivering and with a winter plan in place.

Major acute trusts Nottingham University Hospitals and Manchester University Hospitals have been allocated £450,000 and £350,000 respectively to undertake activity in the independent sector, although local sources lamented that this money was being given so late in the day.

And it hasn’t come without strings attached — NUH must outsource 30 orthopaedic patients by the end of January, a target the trust is confident it will meet.