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

NHS Providers’ annual conference kicks off on Tuesday. If trust chief execs were able to gather as they normally would in the coffee stands and bars, it would probably be issues other than reorganisations and statute on their minds – and NHSP will certainly be making a noise about the coming pressures of winter from its digital platform.

But, with government contemplating legislation to disassemble the internal market, the providers club, which began life as a foundation trust’s club, will also be seeking to draw a line in the sand over its members’ ability to govern themselves properly.

The idea of “re-establishing an all-powerful quasi strategic health authority tier”, with extensive powers and the ability to direct providers, would be a mistake, its chief executive Chris Hopson will say, further disrupting accountability, transparency and good governance of complex services.

His position is nuanced – it will have to be, since some trust bosses are pretty keen on pushing along the collaboration and integration agenda; and some even yearn for the strategic direction and regional coordination which statutory SHAs could offer.

Mr Hopson will support rapid moves to system working, but argue this can be achieved with and through independent and sovereign provider boards, while setting out principles for government to follow, if indeed it does get round to drafting an NHS bill in coming months.

‘Play the long game’

In an interview with HSJ, former NHS chief Sir David Nicholson called on NHS chiefs to avoid taking a “short-term approach” and urged managers to be “more creative” in finding ways to restore services. He also said bosses should seek to disprove a government perception of the NHS being “slow and inward looking”.

But Sir David, who chairs Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust and Hereford and Worcestershire sustainability and transformation partnership, is also a realist and said that the health service would “struggle to deliver” many activity targets set by NHS England in late July.

He also called for more national intervention to speed up the expansion and networking of the NHS’ pathology laboratories, and questioned the current operating model for covid testing.

Sir David, who is also a non-executive director at contract management consultancy Lifecycle Management Group, said the NHS should use the independent sector to “rebuild” activity in services particularly affected by covid-19. Read the full article here.