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

After the Grenfell fire in 2017, there was a burst of activity to make sure NHS trusts got their fire safety compliance in order. As HSJ revealed shortly after that tragic incident, several trusts had a lot of work to do.

Since then, parts of the NHS have been making efforts to bring their buildings up to standard, but worryingly this – in some cases – appears to be easier said than done. Improving fire safety costs money, and the lack of capital funding available for trusts to spend has been documented frequently by HSJ.

Daily Insight recalls two of three bids for capital funding to carry out fire safety works were turned down in last year’s bidding process by sustainability and transformation partnerships.

But it’s not just getting the money which can be the problem. In Cornwall, a dispute over much-needed fire safety works has resulted in the county’s mental health and community trust refusing to pay bills or rent for areas that require upgrading by landlord NHS Property Services.

Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust has had to decant one of its wards at Camborne and Redruth Community Hospital after NHS Property Services said it could not complete “fire rectification work” until 2020.

The landlord halted the work due to other projects requiring completion, though a spokesman told HSJ the scheme “remains a high priority”.

Years of bumpy roads

After two years of uncertainty, the merger of Luton and Dunstable Hospital Foundation Trust and Bedford Hospital Trust looks set to go ahead following the confirmation of badly needed capital funding from government last week. It has been a bumpy road since the merger proposals were first unveiled in 2017, with ongoing doubts the trusts would secure the capital funding required for the collaboration to go ahead.

At the beginning of this year, the trusts were making plans in the event the hospitals could not merge, after Luton and Dunstable’s latest bid for capital funding failed.

However, trust bosses remained positive – just last month, the chief executive of Bedford Hospital Trust, Stephen Conroy, told HSJ he thought the merger was “inevitable” despite ongoing funding concerns.

Last week, the trusts received the news they had been waiting for – that Luton and Dunstable had been allocated a portion of funding from government. The £99.5m will enable Luton and Dunstable to build a new acute services block and pave the way towards Luton and Bedford becoming a single trust.

Health bosses at both trusts have welcomed the news, with deputy chief executive of Luton, Cathy Jones, saying the new build will “make a real difference to patient and staff experience”.

Mr Conroy hailed the funding announcement as “wonderful news for patients and staff in Bedfordshire and Luton”, adding it will enable “the two hospitals to progress, including the implementation of Bedford Hospital’s three year plan”.

A final deadline for the merger is yet to be revealed – but more should become clear as the two boards join together and “reinvigorate” the long-running merger plans.