HSJ’s round-up of the day’s must read stories and debate

Vanguards call for clarity

Are vanguards in breach of procurement law? It’s a question that has long bubbled under the surface since the programme was launched over a year ago. Can commissioners and providers be joined together by a central authority with a mandate to just get on and transform their health systems, and do non-members have the right to challenge them where they’ve been excluded?

This has never really been nailed down by NHS England or NHS Improvement – and vanguards are concerned enough about it to write to them asking for more clarity on the issue.

New EU procurement rules, which kick in next week, clear up the issue somewhat: everything should be publicly advertised; all bidders must be treated equally; and commissioners can be taken to court if they don’t.

The new “light touch regime” has applied everywhere else in the public sector for a year – the NHS was given 12 months to prepare for the changes.

Which makes it hard to understand why NHS England, the Department of Health and NHS Improvement have been so quiet about it so far.

Marsh to multi-task again?

East Midlands Ambulance Service Trust has revealed that it has been speaking with NHS Improvement over the last couple of weeks about the steps it could take to “strengthen” its leadership in an attempt to solve key performance issues.

One of the options mooted could see the chief executive of neighbouring West Midlands Ambulance Service Foundation Trust, Anthony Marsh, take on both providers to support EMAS with its challenges.

Last week, EMAS chair Pauline Tagg said the trust was in exploratory talks and ruled out the prospect of the trust merging with its neighbour, contrary to local media reports.

Ms Tagg said: “Since the departure of [previous chief executive] Sue Noyes in March, I have been having discussions with NHS Improvement to explore opportunities to strengthen our leadership arrangements.

“This will allow us to support the existing team to deliver improved performance, quality and better manage our resources; not a merger with another trust.

“One of these options has involved talking with West Midlands Ambulance Service about the possibility of their chief executive, Dr Anthony Marsh, working with EMAS to support us with these challenges.”

Dr Marsh is no stranger to the juggling leadership roles. In January 2014 he took on the chief executive role of East of England Ambulance Service Trust while running WMAS.

He led the trust after carrying out an independent review of the provider’s significant performance problems, leaving the role last August.