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

Don’t drop the ball, Matt

There is widespread consensus in the NHS that digital technology is going to be a major driver of service improvement and cost efficiency.

Since becoming health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock has brought welcome attention to this agenda. But his unbounded enthusiasm has also raised some concern that attention has been diverted from other crucial areas.

The previous health secretary chose to champion patient safety during his long stint in the job, which was an obvious priority after the Mid Staff scandal and Francis inquiry.

And Sir David Dalton, one of the most widely respected health leaders in the country, has warned Mr Hancock not to drop the ball on patient safety.

In an interview with HSJthe recently retired trust chief executive said: “I would urge him [Mr Hancock] to stay the course on improvement and the focus on patient safety. So much has happened in the last decade that probably wasn’t imaginable two decades ago, and it’s fabulous to see…

“Wherever you go in the country now, people can talk about what they’re doing and what their method of improvement is. They know the metrics associated with patient safety, they’re still measuring pressure ulcers, infection rates and so on.

“There’s been enormous change because a decade ago it wasn’t like that. But these things can easily atrophy, and the benefits rapidly disappear.

“We have to ensure all staff have this sense that they are the ones that we want to drive improvement. I think that’s a signal that comes from the top of the organisation, whether you’re secretary of state, a regional director, the chief executive of a trust, or a ward manager…

“So, it would be good for the secretary of state still to say that this is a firm priority that he attached importance to. I’m sure if he was sat with us, he’d say ‘absolutely I agree with it’, but I think it always needs attention.”

Jetting off

The Care Quality Commission’s first ever lead for mental health services has announced his intention to depart for pastures further afield.

Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector and lead for mental health, is due to leave his post at the end of summer to go travelling.

Having been lead for mental health at the CQC for five years, he has raised the national focus on safety within mental health services. Over the last year, his focus has been on the quality and safety of mental health wards – in one interview, Dr Lelliott raised concerns over the hundreds of inappropriate dormitory wards left in the sector. He recently sent a letter to providers warning they could be judged on attempts to get capital where estate issues need to be addressed.

In his last few months, it is likely much of Dr Lelliott’s time will be taken up by the secretary of state commissioned review into restraint, seclusion and segregation for people with mental health problems, a learning disability or autism. Final publication of this work is due next year.

It is also worth noting there has been a flurry of changing faces at the top of the CQC as of late, including a new chief executive, chief inspector of adult social care, chief inspector of primary medical services, and chief operating officer.