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

It’s nearly five years on from the closure of, but it appears the lessons were not fully learned.

new attempt to collect lots of patient data and keep it in one central database is now being postponed after the government finally decided more consultation with professionals and the public was needed.

For anyone not around at the time of, that programme’s failure was largely down to the NHS’ failure to communicate with the public over their consent for having their data shared.

Half a decade on, and it’s the same problems dogging health chiefs eager to seize upon the benefits of using patient data to improve services.

The alarm bells were ringing at NHS Digital, which is implementing the new data-sharing scheme, in the last fortnight as concerned GPs and professional bodies demanded more time to digest the plan.

Sources close to the process said NHSD asked DHSC for a two-month delay to implementation last week, only for ministers to refuse amid their own concerns that doctors were looking for reasons to kick the can down the road.

However, following further discussions late last week, the department finally relented, with health minister Jo Churchill announcing a two-month delay in order to “talk to patients, doctors, health charities and others”.

These two months will be crucial to determine the programme’s future, but with covid-19 having clearly demonstrated the need for good use of data – another failure to deliver such a scheme would be unforgivable.

Encouraging start

Even its biggest champion would not be able to convincingly argue the NHS has a glowing record on diversity, particularly when it comes to leadership roles.

Therefore, it was refreshing to see six out of eight chairs of the newly created regional people boards are women, with half from an ethnic minority.

The names are well-known to HSJ readers and include Dame Jackie Daniel, chief executive of Newcastle FT, and Marie Gabriel, chair of the NHS Race and Health Observatory.

Prerana Issar, chief People Officer, stressed that the NHS was committed to ensuring the diversity of society was reflected by its senior leadership and said the new chairs bring a “rich and welcome variety of lived experience”.

The challenge now will be to replicate this across the NHS, including trusts, integrated care systems and the two different boards within them.