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

A new strategy announced against a backdrop of large numbers of NHS staff having to self-isolate will allow frontline health workers who are double jabbed to keep working, even if they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive.

The government’s announcement came into effect immediately and also covers social care staff – but it brought a mixed reaction from NHS leaders.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers and deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “On the one hand, they are worried about their capacity to support patients safely and quickly, particularly given that many staff will already be away for parts of summer as they take overdue annual leave that is owed to them but on the other hand, the last thing they would want to do is expose their patients and colleagues to an increased risk of catching the virus, so the need for local review and discretion here is important.”

The rule change follows a scheme exclusively reported by HSJ in which NHS staff in the North East who had been identified as a close contact of covid positive people were allowed to keep working as long as they undertook daily tests.

The NHS has been struggling with the number of staff who have had to isolate after being identified as a close contact, with one trust chief executive telling HSJ that a quarter of his junior doctors were absent for that reason.

‘A bit of a disaster’

Four candidates were in the hot seat but none was chosen to be permanent chair of Cheshire and Merseyside health system.

It is understood at least four people were interviewed for the role earlier this month, but no appointment was made, with interviewers apparently not convinced by some of the candidates’ understanding of, and commitment to, integration and collaboration. One described it as a “bit of a disaster”.

Cheshire and Merseyside is one of the largest and most incoherent ICSs in the country, and has struggled over the last five years to form the structures and partnership working required by the national integration agenda.

The outgoing chair and chief officer (Alan Yates and Jackie Bene respectively) had made some progress in their short tenures, but they also faced difficulties in managing local relationships. In May, they announced they were quitting because their jobs had become “something they didn’t sign up for”.

So, the recruitment process will begin all over again in the next few months. However, in the meantime NHS England’s regional team has brought in David Flory to take up the chair’s post on an interim basis.