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

Serious problems appear to remain at a mental health trust which has faced calls for an inquiry into the deaths of vulnerable patients.

Tees Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation Trust was already at the centre of an NHS England investigation after two 17-year-old patients died within two months of each other at one of the trust’s hospitals in 2019.

Now the Care Quality Commission, which closed the hospital down in 2019, is now warning that “significant improvements” are still needed at the trust.

An inspection report, due later this month, will detail the “serious concerns” the regulator has about the trust’s risk management processes following a visit in January.

HSJ sources say the trust is working towards a deadline in May to make changes – or it could face further action.

Cancer vs covid

Covid’s impact on cancer treatments and diagnosis was spelt out in stark terms by NHS England’s cancer director this week.

Speaking at HSJ’s national cancer forum, Cally Palmer said it could take another year to return to normal. Activity over the past 12 months had been 89 per cent of the previous year, but the service was committed to getting “fully reset” to 2019 levels by March 2022, she said.

Ms Palmer shared information showing that, by December 2020, the amount of treatment being carried out following an urgent referral, for most cancers, exceeded December 2019 levels, but that there are still significant treatment backlogs.

And, for lung cancer patients, the number of treatments carried out in December 2020 was only 73 per cent of that a year earlier — a decrease from September and October 2020 levels — as covid pressures rose during the third wave. Lung cancer is one of the most amenable to treatment if picked up early.

Dame Cally, also chief executive of the Royal Marsden Foundation Trust, said the service was committed to returning to at least normal levels of activity across the board by March next year.