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

Screening programmes save lives and their quiet halting during the height of the pandemic is a scandal that should not be overlooked.

The 450 people NHS Improvement/England London reckons have an undetected cancer as a result of 115,000 scans having to be cancelled is obviously extrapolatable to the rest of the country.

NHS England has been coy/obtuse in disclosing whether the service in London actually performed any breast screens at all from mid-March to June. A shame because these are the figures that aren’t even included in the similarly disastrous fall in the number of breast screens carried out after a GP referral.

Yes, the GP urgent referrals have increased and yes the national screening programmes will also restart in earnest.

But as with all the backlogs created in March-June, the positions cannot be recovered.

Diagnostics and treatment were already running hot and falling behind demand. So even 100 per cent of the old capacity (which is unlikely) is not going to recover the position.

Even throwing money at the problem could not recover the March-June backlog in screening, and other areas, because there already wasn’t the workforce or equipment. The former can’t be magicked up, even with staff working at “the top of their grade” (ie less safely than before) and overtime payments.

Why do we have these workforce and equipment issues? Years of below-inflation funding settlements. Another way of being under-prepared for a pandemic.

Better but not brilliant

New research published today by NHS Confederation has shown – in the words of its deputy chair Danny Mortimer – the NHS is still “not where it needs to be” in making boards and leadership more diverse.

The data – which was analysed by the University of Exeter Business School – is part of the Women Leaders Network’s research, which aimed to highlight equality and aim for 50/50 gender balanced boards by 2020.

However, despite not quite hitting the target, there has been some positive progress over the last three years. A total of 44.7 per cent of executive and non-executive roles across all NHS trusts are held by women. This figure was 42.6 per cent in 2017, meaning the overall increase in female board level representation has been 5 per cent.

What is more shocking – although sadly not surprising – was the further insight the network’s report gave on the representation of black and minority ethnic leaders at board level. One in three trusts have entirely white boards and overall BME representation at board level was 8.9 per cent.

Many senior leaders pledged in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests to do more to make NHS leadership reflective of the patients and communities it serves – this research should surely hammer home the message to chairs, chief execs, and headhunters that this work is needed now more than ever.