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

The past year has shown integrated care systems – those key components of the NHS for the next five years at least – actually can work. That is, according to Marcel Levi, the outgoing chief executive of University College London Hospital Foundation Trust.

The health service in his part of the capital has shown “how effective integrated care could be and how well organisations can work together,” he told us shortly before leaving his post after a four-and-a-half-year tenure.

But he is worried that this progress will be snuffed out by the system imposing an overly bureaucratic structure on what has so far enjoyed a light touch when it comes to management.

“This very agile, flexible, fantastic, result-oriented system will actually now come to a grinding halt because everybody’s now talking about boards, and about terms of reference, and about meetings and meeting frequencies, and who should be on the subcommittees of the provider alliance,” Professor Levi explained.

“And these are all very boring discussions that really distract from what you want to achieve and that is better care for patients and… better care for the population.”

Hopefully, this warning will be heeded, and, as the electric urgency of the pandemic and its attendant unfettered access to funding recede, when the NHS returns to business as usual the innovation of the past year is not squashed under a board.

Dame swans into Cygnet

Cygnet Health Care, one of the largest inpatient mental health providers in the country, has featured in the news fairly regularly over the past couple of years.

Most of this was due to a string of shocking reports from the Care Quality Commission over the safety of its services, and a number of high-profile scandals.

It appears the provider is now making quite a public push for improvement and in the last year has appointed five high-profile figures to its new “independent advisory board”.

The provider’s fifth appointment, Dame Clare Gerada, is probably the most high-profile yet.

She currently chairs the NHS Assembly, an umbrella body for the health and care sectors to advise NHSE on the delivery of its long-term plan. However she’s previously been chair of the Royal College of GPs.

Interestingly, whilst in her role as RCGP chair, Dame Clare was always quite vocally part of the anti-privatisation factions of the NHS.

Beyond this she has some mental health service connection through her Practitioner Health service, a mental health support service for doctors, which has been widely commissioned by NHS England.

Other big names within Cygnet’s advisory board include, Professor Lord Patel, former chair of the Mental Health Act Commission, and Stephen Firn, a former NHS England director who was responsible for setting up its mental health provider collaboratives programme.