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

No, tsar

A recommendation to appoint a national clinical director for community services was dropped from Lord Carter’s community services efficiency report after NHS England intervened, HSJ has disclosed.

An earlier draft copy of the report - leaked to HSJ - had a clearly stated recommendation for a joint national clinical director for community services across both NHSE and NHS Improvement. 

The draft report said: ”NHS England and NHS Improvement should jointly appoint a national clinical director for community services whose primary objective should be to set out clear and consistent ambitions around how the contribution of community health services can be better recognised, valued and specified.”

The desire for a more prominent national community service champion has been an ongoing bugbear for NHS England. The idea also featured in drafts of a potential Forward View for community services which never saw the light of day.

Speaking to HSJ, Lord Carter confirmed that he had agreed with NHS England to take the recommendation out, and did so as he thought it was “perfectly logical” because, for example, there was no overall director for acute care.

NHSE’s case is that it doesn’t want to appoint directors based on outmoded sector divisions, instead championing integrated services and pathways. Critics can retort, what about the senior director posts for mental health, specialised services, and primary care?

Panic, it’s GDPR day!

Friday was dubbed “GDPR day”, with the commencement of the all-consuming General Data Protection Regulation.

Unsurprisingly it was not a 100 per cent smooth process for the NHS. HSJ revealed on Friday afternoon that the release of millions of patients’ anonymous data was temporarily suspended last night, amid concerns that it may fall foul of new data regulations.

Emails seen by HSJ show on Thursday night, staff at NHS Digital were ordered not to release any “anonymised” patient data.

The direction came from NHS Digital’s medical director, Martin Severs, who was concerned that GDPR guidance released at a late stage by the Information Commissioner’s Office could mean this patient data was no longer legally deemed anonymous.

In another email, sent around midday, Professor Severs said the data sharing could resume.

“After this morning’s pause and detailed discussions with senior managers and subject matter experts we should continue the normal practice of disseminating data anonymised,” he said.

However, the email also suggested questions remained about what patient information is now considered anonymous and could therefore be shared without compromising a patient’s privacy.