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

Reality check

The unprecedentedly poor waiting time data for electives, diagnostics and cancer published on Thursday suggests the chances of NHS England’s ambitions for “near normal” service levels this autumn being met are very unlikely.

The data provided a stark reality check for the regulator, and indicated that NHSE’s activity targets for trusts appear more aspirational than achievable.

But even if the system does manage to crank elective activity back up to 90 per cent of levels seen for October 2019, the waiting list will still be growing.

This is because the number of new referrals is now back to exceeding the number of patients starting their consultant-led treatment, after a short break from that unfortunate longer-term trend at the beginning of lockdown when patients stayed at home.

It is still not clear how close the NHS will get to the NHS Confederation’s worst-case scenario of ten million patients on the waiting list by Christmas, but things are certainly likely to get a lot worse before they get better.

Diversity demand

Firms who cannot demonstrate diversity among their own senior leadership should not “readily” get access to public money, according to one NHS trust chief executive.

Owen Williams, chief executive of Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust, told HSJ it is time for the health service to “put up or shut up” on diversity if it is to address issues faced by ethnic minorities.

Embedding such a change and doing so fairly would be a truly mountainous task. The NHS already struggles with diversity in the boardroom so suppliers may take a dim view from those who are telling them to get their act together.