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

“The only way towns and cities that are less well connected… can compete to attract firms is to accept lower wages,” said a 2008 report that rubbished the yet-to-be-invented levelling up agenda.

The paper helpfully resurfaced when author Tim Leunig was working in the Treasury advising Rishi Sunak. Now Dr Leunig – an academic by trade labelled a “barmy boffin” by unsympathetic northern newspapers – is off to the Department of Health and Social Care for a six-month stint, where he will be working on “cancer, mental health and other issues”.

It is not clear whether Dr Leunig has been brought in to flesh out Sajid Javid’s “war on cancer” and “10-year plan for mental health” pledges. The pair have experience working together, during Mr Javid’s spell as chancellor – where it was suggested that Dr Leunig, a close ally of Dominic Cummings, had been appointed to keep tabs on Number 11.

One senior health figure told HSJ the move was evidence of DHSC’s growing ambition: “…for the first time since 2014, DHSC seem to think they, and not NHS England, are back in the business of controlling NHS strategy and policy. However, they lack internal capability to do so, hence hires like this.”


‘Patient safety not a priority’

In his final days as the Health Safety Investigation Branch’s chief investigator, Keith Conradi has spoken candidly about the watchdog’s poor relationship with NHSE and the pressure he felt it was under to take on maternity investigations before it was really ready.

In an interview for the Institute of Health and Social Care Management, Mr Conradi said HSIB’s relationship was at best “ambivalent” and got worse as time went on. He also suggested that for NHSE, patient safety was simply not a priority.

Although he was optimistic about the independence the Health and Care Bill will bring to HSIB he said there would still be some interesting battles between HSIB, the DHSC and NHSE.

But it remains unclear how the creation of the statutory health authority will really change the impact and work of HSIB, and most critically the poor culture that has been uncovered over a number of years.

Although Mr Conradi said he took overall responsibility he put the “noise” made by staff members down to poor management and hasty recruitment, which seems to barely touch the surface considering some of the accusations levied at the senior team over the years.

Also on today

In London Eye, Ben Clover looks at community objections to Great Ormond Street Hospital’s plan to rebuild the front of its main site – including some unusual suggestions for where GOSH could be sited instead – and in news, an HSJ analysis of NHSE data has revealed the systems which are the furthest away from the target of eliminating all two-year waits for treatment by the end of July.