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

The decision by North East London Commissioning Support Unit to forge ahead with a major restructure planned before covid-19 hit – which puts nearly 200 NHS staff at risk of redundancy – raises a moral dilemma.

The CSU’s desire to re-shape its offer to adapt to the changes in the NHS’ commissioning is understandable. NEL begun the process last year before it was paused in March because of the coronavirus crisis. Its leadership view it as mission critical. 

And while restructures and redundancies are sadly a way of life for NHS organisations, the timing for staff facing the prospect of losing their job could not be any worse.

Many will find themselves out of a job at the beginning of winter, joining an already swelling number of unemployed workers and with a second covid-19 spike likely to lock down the economy again.

The CSU insisted it was doing everything it could to find those impacted alternative jobs within the NHS. But unions and employees argued they had not explored even basic alternatives to compulsory cuts like voluntary redundancies schemes. Unite also called on NEL to cut its use of highly paid contractors before forcing redundancy of full-time staff.

CSUs occupy a strange place in the NHS infrastructure with their quasi-autonomous role. But these are still NHS employees, many of whom worked through the coronavirus outbreak, providing vital services to support the frontline.

If the NHS had put 200 nurses at risk of redundancy this week, there would be national outcry and quite possibly a ministerial intervention. So why should their colleagues at NEL, whose work is vital to supporting their clinical colleagues, be treated differently?   

Overtime ain’t over yet

Around 24 per cent of NHS managers have worked more than 20 hours a week in unpaid overtime during the pandemic, new data has revealed.

A Managers in Partnership survey, shared exclusively with HSJ, found just 4 per cent of its 150 respondents were working 20 hours or more pre-covid. That figure has since doubled.

Results also revealed more than half (57 per cent) felt their hours would remain similar between now and the end of 2020, although 29 per cent believe they will increase.

A government spokeswoman said local employers should thrash out their own agreements on overtime pay.