HSJ’s round up of the day’s must read stories and debate

A new year resolution for Hunt and Stevens

A leader column from HSJ editor Alastair McLellan tells the story of the 2018-19 NHS planning guidance published last week. He tells how the health secretary and NHS England chief executive have reached “a very NHS compromise” following a pre-Christmas row over health service funding and delivery asks.

The deal means the NHS enters a financial year with full clarity that it is not expecting to meet the flagship accident and emergency target, nor to make any significant reduction in the number of people (several millions) waiting for an operation (as HSJ forecast in its new year editorial).

On the plus side for the government, it can claim there is a commitment to make some form of progress with performance - and a big dollop of money is being put into a plan to eliminate deficits in both trusts and commissioners.

The Jeremy Hunt/Simon Stevens row, therefore, seems to have been “resolved with a whimper not a bang” (as we also predicted). To make the hat-trick, we also foresaw the ditching of the “accountable care” label

Goodbye to a great

Andy Cowper pays tribute to Alan Maynard, one of the most renowned health economists, who died on Friday.

“Alan Maynard believed that candour, clear thinking and evidence were the three vital things to making healthcare better,” he writes. “To this day, those three things are not yet the organising principles of all decision making in the NHS.

“Yet they’re a lot closer to the centre than they would have been without Alan’s work and wit.” 

Trump special

Regrettably, Daily Insight can’t let the NHS’s very own Trump-tweet-storm go unnoted. Monday afternoon went like this:

  1. The US president, having somehow heard about “save the NHS” marches at the weekend, tweets: “The Democrats are pushing for Universal HealthCare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working. Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!”
  2. Jeremy Hunt, cognisant that absolutely no one in the UK outside the far right would agree with this sentiment, took to Twitter to denounce Trump.
  3. The press office of every organisation in Britain with anything to do with health rushes out a response, also denouncing the president, sometimes crowbarring in their own message/ask.
  4. The prime minister says she agrees with Mr Hunt and is also in favour of the NHS, in one of her few popular statements so far this year.
  5. People on Twitter say Mr Hunt and Mrs May should therefore fund the NHS properly, not throw it to the imaginary “accountable care” wolves, and so on.
  6. Simon Stevens, giving evidence about something completely different to the Commons public accounts committee, can’t resist getting in on this PR bonanza. He manages to crowbar in that - to everyone’s absolute surprise - he also disagrees with the president. He offers a cheeky invite for Mr Trump to come and visit our “healthcare for everyone, delivered at half the cost of the US health system”. The NHS England chief exec manages to also stay on side with his old pal, and unlikely friend-of-the-NHS, Boris ”£350m a week” Johnson - who remains desperate for Mr Trump to come to these shores.