HSJ’s round-up of the day’s must read stories

Snap to it

More delay and frustration of change is the main immediate consequence for the NHS of the general election announced by Theresa May on Tuesday morning.

The service’s current leadership may feel aggrieved that they are dealing with not only the most financially straitened period in its history, but also a time of disproportionate political upheaval and uncertainty.

It was less than a year after the May 2015 general election that campaigning began for the EU referendum; this gave way to a new and very different prime minister and cabinet, the beginning of the all consuming Brexit process; and now to the second general election in 25 months on 8 June – not to mention local contests that can cause plenty of disruption.

All this has made it even more difficult for the NHS to get on with change, particularly the reconfigurations and other contentious decisions often involved in work to contain costs and improve safety. These rely on the tacit engagement or support of politicians – and elections tend to elicit the opposite.

The saving grace of a snap election is that there are only six weeks of campaigning, but it will likely be followed by more uncertainty surrounding any new policy commitments, the forming of a government with a possible change of health secretary, and its new priorities.

Health economies under pressure

During the election, Labour is likely to seek to make potential service closures a big campaign point. Local issues in the mix include reconfigurations in Lincolnshire, Cumbria, Dorset and Shropshire.

HSJ analysis published on Tuesday has identified the health economies with the greatest overspends both against financial “control total” targets, and against allocations/income for 2016-17, and therefore likely to be targeted by national bodies to make “difficult choices” to scale back “unaffordable” services.

National officials have begun identifying regions that are “significantly out of balance”, though there are different views about how this should be measured. One measure likely to be considered is the combined performance of a region’s NHS organisations against their 2016-17 financial targets.

HSJ has collated the latest official forecasts for trusts and CCGs on a regional basis, to produce a map showing the STP areas most likely to come under scrutiny.

We have also produced a map showing the actual surplus or deficit position for each STP, which is how some national figures believe the priority areas should be identified.

NHS Digital lands big hitter

NHS Digital has appointed the Home Office’s chief technology official Sarah Wilkinson as its new chief executive.

Ms Wilkinson carried out a major restructuring of the Home Office’s IT capabilities, overseeing critical systems supporting the UK Border Agency and the police.

The former Credit Suisse head of corporate systems technology has held other senior roles in the private sector with banks including UBS and Deutsche Bank, and 10 years at Lehman Brothers.