HSJ’s round-up of the day’s essential health stories and talking points

I’m afraid there is no money

On the day after NHS England denied it had been “leant on” to reduce its five year funding demands on the Treasury from £16bn to £8bn, the HSJ editor has argued that the health service should stop pleading for money.

In Monday’s editorial, Alastair McLellan says “asking for something that is not going to be delivered undermines credibility”.

He continues: “Calling for a boost similar to that delivered in 2002 (which was on the back of a decade of improving economic performance) suggests naivety at best.

“But more importantly, calls for extra cash let the government off the hook. They allow the debate to be diverted into the ’strong economy, strong NHS’ cul-de-sac.

“There are policy changes the NHS should be arguing for that would directly affect its bottom line and this is where efforts should be focused.”

Even if there was extra money available, Mr McLellan writes, it should be invested in social care – “where the need is greater and the impact on the NHS significant”.

Not sunny by the sea

Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust has been forced into significant bed closures after inspectors raised concerns about staff ratios and its stroke services, HSJ reported on Monday.

The Care Quality Commission’s final report on the trust is not due until next month, but “concerns” raised by inspectors in preliminary feedback in January were set out in a report from the trust’s February board meeting.

The report said the CQC had raised concerns over the trust’s ability to maintain registered nursing staffing levels to the ratio as indicated in NICE guidance.

The trust’s issues underline the herculean challenge facing those involved in trying to make mid and south Essex a sustainable health economy as part of the flagship NHS improvement programme, the success regime. System leaders have set a bold target of balancing the health economy’s estimated £216m deficit by 2018-19.

The other trusts involved in the mid and south Essex success regime – Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust and Mid Essex Hospital Services Trust – also face significant challenges.

Basildon’s chief executive Clare Panniker was last week appointed head of a new leadership team overseeing three hospital trusts under an unprecedented new “group” model.

The plan is for the new leadership team to run the three struggling Essex trusts, which have combined revenues of £840m, as a “network” of hospitals with a flexible workforce.

Making worthwhile inroads into the £216m health economy deficit by 2018-19 will require a significant reconfiguration, and at a decent clip.