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

It’s rare for HSJ to report almost unmitigated good news but the replacement of an ageing mental health unit with a state-of-the-art new hospital is close to it.

The Abraham Cowley Unit, run by Surrey and Borders Partnership Foundation Trust, has been condemned by the Care Quality Commission as not fit for purpose and, sadly, has seen several patient deaths.

But from next month the old ACU will be no more and in two years’ time the new hospital will be taking its first patients.

The twist in the tail, of course, is how to house patients in that interregnum. Some will be in a high-quality modular building but others will have to be placed in the independent sector – potentially at greater cost. The trust is trying to keep people “as local as possible,” according to new chief executive Graham Wareham. It will also need to hang on to staff from the old ACU by redeploying them and then bringing them back in 2024.

So the next two years may bring challenges but overall the trust may be one step closer to Mr Wareham’s aim of “giving outstanding care to the people of Surrey and North East Hampshire”.

Time to wipe the slate clean on infection control? 

The big impact they have on the way hospitals operate looms large behind senior NHS leaders’ views that infection control rules should be relaxed.

The rules are a key reason why the NHS is still carrying out substantially fewer elective procedures than pre-covid, something which has been highlighted by new analysis.

Glen Burley, who is chief executive of three Midlands trusts and involved in national-level discussions on elective matters, told HSJ: “Pretty much every pathway has a covid and non-covid route, which slows down flow and staff productivity.

“There is a growing argument that these rules are now disproportionate to the risks. With covid cases in the community also rising now, we may have to question again the relative risks of continuing to isolate staff.”

Also on today

The Primer offers your weekly, quickfire rundown of health news coverage elsewhere, and Nick Carding’s West Country Chronicle examines the latest twist in the proposed merger of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust and Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust.