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

Bygones be bygones

More than a year after it was launched, NHS England’s largest single medicine procurement has come to an end.

The procurement, with contracts worth up to £1bn over five years, was the start point of NHSE’s admirable drive to eradicate hepatitis C in the country by 2025 – five years earlier than the World Health Organisation’s goal.

Given that only three pharmaceutical companies currently supply the hepatitis C drugs in question, it’s not surprising the competition was hard fought.

The fact that one of the bidders felt the need to take NHS England to court over the tender design was more surprising.

Happily for NHSE, the challenge was dismissed by a High Court judge, and the regulator added some strong words afterwards about Abbvie wasting taxpayers’ money and delaying the overall programme.

But that seems to be water under the bridge now. Abbvie has received a share of the contracts, and the company “welcomed” NHS England’s decision – having “worked closely with them to build an HCV elimination strategy”, according to their statement.

While there have been several examples of poor procurement processes by the NHS in the past, on this occasion it (so far) looks like the regulator got a very complex tender spot on.

Is this the end?

HSJ has reported proposed cuts to training budgets for two specialist mental health professions – child psychotherapy and clinical psychology.

Health Education England has told representative groups for the two professions it is considering cuts to the salary support offered for both.

One senior source told HSJ the proposed cuts were “significant” and could spell the end for child psychotherapy.

As dramatic as this verdict may seem, those who go into the profession are usually mature students who rely on the salary support. Or rather the salary support funding is needed by the providers to pay students while they are training.

Anyone involved in district nursing will likely tell those in doubt how cuts to salary support in some areas have hit their workforce.

The proposed cuts also come when the NHS will be trying to diversify its mental health workforce beyond the traditional nurse and consultant roles. Is it wise, particularly within children’s services, to make cuts which could decrease part of the already limited staffing?

Then again, could the funding be better used elsewhere? Perhaps the all singing and all dancing forthcoming workforce plan has the answer.