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

 A top American primary care doctor has been appointed to lead NHS England’s new transformation directorate, which will bring together the organisation’s operational improvement team and digital body NHSX.

Tim Ferris, who has been an NHSE/I non-executive director for three years, has worked extensively on healthcare systems, improvement, and population health in the US. It is hoped his new directorate will help maintain the pace of service innovation seen during the covid-19 pandemic.

In Thursday’s board meeting, Dr Ferris praised the UK’s vaccine rollout, saying it was an example of the “end-to-end” control of service delivery possible in the NHS. Having a view of every step of healthcare delivery was a huge advantage of a single payer system, he said.

While some HSJ readers have praised the new appointment, others haven’t been quite so positive. Readers have already questioned a lack of transparency in the process by which Dr Ferris was appointed. Although the role was created in February, it has not been advertised publicly. Other readers expressed disappointment that his appointment won’t improve diversity at the top of the healthcare system.

Another question that’s worth considering is why Dr Ferris, a CEO of a major multispecialty medical organisation and a well-respected primary care position, has accepted the post, which will see him relocate to England in May. Some commentators, including HSJ’s own editor-in-chief, have suggested this directorship could be a stepping stone en route to NHS England CEO.

Eastern promise

With the NHS under pressure to significantly boost international recruitment the latest hunting ground is Hong Kong.

A major recruitment drive has been launched in the region, where around 5.4 million residents have recently been given special rights to settle and work in the UK. The push begins amid fears the pandemic has hit the government’s target to hire an additional 50,000 nurses by 2024.

It is understood that more than 200 nurses have been signed up in an initial recruitment, and a subsequent drive is due to be launched in coming weeks.

From February this year, the government gave new rights to around 5.4 million ‘British national overseas’ passport holders in Hong Kong, as well as their dependants, to be able to settle and work in the UK. The government expects around 300,000 residents to come to the UK in the first five years of the scheme.

These residents previously had special status, but were only entitled to visa-free access to the UK for six months.