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Court cases between NHS trusts and private sector companies are not unusual, but the latest example looks a particularly feisty affair.

Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust has taken legal action against construction giants Lendlease after identifying wide-ranging structural defects across the entire estate at its flagship Cramlington Hospital.

The trust, which is led by former NHS Improvement boss Sir Jim Mackey, is seeking nearly £100m in damages, compensation and remedial works – a huge amount given the fact that the hospital itself cost around £95m to build. At its time of opening, the hospital was hailed as the NHS’ first purpose-built specialist emergency hospital.

Sir Jim made his views on the construction work carried out very clear by telling HSJ there was “no place for this kind of contracting with the public service” and pledging to “make sure we get what we paid for”.

However, this is not a straightforward case involving just two parties.

The claim against Lendlease has triggered disputes between the firm and several of its sub-contractors, including another big player in the construction world in Balfour Beatty.

The sub-contractors deny liability for some of the work Northumbria FT alleges is faulty, and the scene is therefore set for a complex and protracted battle between the parties.

An imperfect partnership

The NHS and the pharmaceutical sector might share the same goal of improving outcomes for patients but they are two different beasts, certainly in the way they operate.

That was the message of former National Institute for Health and Care Excellence chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon. In his first major intervention since leaving the post he occupied from the agency’s launch in 1999 until last year, he claims this misalignment “adds complexity, makes the development of trusting relationships more difficult and can frustrate their shared objective of improving outcomes for patients”.

It also, he states, “erodes trust, and the absence of trust leads to suboptimal behaviour in the development, evaluation and pricing of health technologies”.

But he makes suggestions as to how this can be fixed, with his analysis presented exclusively in HSJ. It was co-written with seven other major NHS and industry figures, including former Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry director general Richard Barker, and former NHSE medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.