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

How many complaints does it take for a health service to act? “Too many” seems to have been the answer for one family whose daughter was enduring poor care within a privately run mental health hospital.

This week an HSJ investigation has revealed alarms were raised over the care given at the Huntercombe Hospital, Maidenhead, years before the Care Quality Commission handed it an “inadequate” rating this year.

Five former patients and four families have come forward to discuss their experiences of the hospital, which provides mental healthcare to children and adolescents with acute mental health needs.

Two of the families shared evidence of their concerns being raised with NHS England, local authorities, and local NHS trust in 2017 and 2019, before the CQC’s damning report.

One young woman, who was an inpatient in 2019-20, told HSJ that she was “not treated like a human”. Her parents raised repeated alarms but “no one took responsibility”, they told HSJ.

These stories bring up a systemic issue with the way the NHS scrutinises and handles complaints about services it commissions to the private sector. There is clearly a gap through which concerns fall through. Without addressing this, how can poor care ever be picked up and prevented in time?

PPE planning: the next stage

The NHS and Department of Health and Social Care are looking for continuity with their plans to return the procurement of personal protective equipment back into the NHS Supply Chain service.

Last year NHSSC and Supply Chain Coordination Ltd (the company owned by DHSC set up to manage NHSSC) saw their role in the procurement and distribution of PPE taken over by DHSC, which set up a new PPE procurement cell.

Since then, billions of pounds’ worth of PPE has been bought and sent out to trusts and other providers. Now the NHS wants to bring that role back in-house. The PPE cell is going to be transferred “into the management function of NHS Supply Chain [and] Supply Chain Coordination Ltd”.

This will be a key task for the new CEO of SCCL, currently being recruited, along with folding SCCL and NHSSC back into NHS England.

Meanwhile, NHSSC and the PPE cell are developing a new PPE procurement framework worth £5bn. It will be for single-use protective gear like masks, gowns and drapes. This will be a stop-gap measure to cover current needs and any winter surge of covid while NHSSC develops a longer-term strategy.