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

Cyber security bill dodged

The government is set to ignore recommendations from its top national cyber body that the NHS must meet a “minimum bar” for cyber security, even as the service continues to come under online attack.

A government commissioned review of the NHS response to the WannaCry global ransomware attack, published in February, recommended that all NHS organisations meet a cyber security standard, known as a cyber essentials plus, by June 2021.

However, documents now released to HSJ under Freedom of Information Act show NHS Digital, which runs the NHS’s national cyber services, has opposed adopting the recommendation. 

Papers presented to a cyber security committee meeting in June estimate meeting the standard would cost the NHS between £800m and £1bn.

They add: “While NHSD believes using the CE+ [Cyber Essentials Plus] as a benchmark is useful, getting all providers to accreditation would not be value for money.”

Clinical waste continues

Friday saw wall-to-wall media coverage for the news, revealed by HSJ’s Nick Carding and colleagues on Thursday, that one of the NHS’s big clinical waste disposal firms is in big trouble. This is resulting in potentially dangerous waste, including some body parts, piling up at its sites, as it struggles to incinerate it fast enough.

Further details emerged today of the Environment Agency’s prosecution of the firm involved; while about 20 trusts - mainly in the north east and Yorkshire - have now confirmed to HSJ that they are customers of the company concerned, HES.

Among many outstanding questions is whether NHS England will continue to commission HES for the GP and pharmacy waste contracts it awarded earlier this year, sparking a court challenge from a more expensive competitor. 

Nick was helping explain the issue to BBC Radio 4 listeners and others on Friday, including concerns that trusts haven’t paid much attention to clinical waste procurement issues in recent years - with one survey suggesting many boards give the issue scant interest.