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

Friday brought news of several significant developments for the NHS - the official provider-side deficit for 2015-16; GPs to be balloted on industrial action; and the financial cost of the junior doctors dispute, both to NHS trusts and to the British Medical Association.

Here are the must read stories from hsj.co.uk to get you up to speed:

Official: NHS provider deficit - and the breakdown in your region

Figures published by NHS Improvement showed the provider sector ended 2015-16 with a deficit of £2.45bn. This was £460m worse than the revised in-year plan, and £650m worse than the £1.8bn “control total” set by regulators last year.

But the figure wasn’t quite as grim as those reported locally by NHS trusts would lead you to. As revealed in HSJ analysis the day before, these figures suggested the sector deficit was closer to £2.7bn. It is not yet clear why there was a discrepancy, though papers published by NHSI refer to other “one-off technical measures” taken between December and March, which may not have been reported locally. Some trusts also didn’t include the benefit of capital to revenue transfers in their year-end board papers.

Strike costs all sides

Following yet another leak to senior correspondent Shaun Lintern, HSJ reported that the British Medical Association council was warned in mid-March that the junior doctors’ contract dispute had cost it almost £3m – and the level of spending was not sustainable in the long term.

BMA treasurer Andrew Dearden informed council members the union had by then spent £2.9m fighting the dispute with the government. This figure is likely to have increased considerably following the full walkout by doctors in April and preparation for legal action.

Meanwhile, NHS Improvement stated at its Friday board meeting that the 10 days of industrial action had cost the NHS provider sector £65m in lost in activity.

GPs consider industrial action

With an agreement being reached with junior doctors earlier in the week, the government may have hoped it wouldn’t have to worry about industrial action for a few days at least. Not so.

At the local medical committees conference on Friday, GP representatives have voted unanimously to ballot the profession on potential industrial action, and the possibility of signing undated resignations. They backed the motion in response to what it said was an “inadequate” response to the sector’s problems in NHS England’s General Practice Forward View. LMC chief executive Michelle Drage said the GPFV was “not a rescue package… at best it’s a distraction”.

Leaders face ‘fit and proper’ test

Under fire executives from two under fire trusts are going through the CQC’s fit and proper person process.

The regulator is looking at the appointment last month of Paula Vasco-Knight as acting chief executive of St George’s University Hospitals – she was suspended after less than two weeks after serious financial allegations were made against her relating to a role at a previous employer.

Chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards also said the panel was looking at the directors of Southern Health Foundation Trust, which under intense pressure since it emerged in December that the trust had failed to properly investigate and learn from the deaths of service users.

The CQC does not directly assess the fitness of any individual, but instead looks at whether trusts have carried out their duty under the fit and proper person regulations.

Special measures trust on the up

But it wasn’t all bad news. An NHS trust which was among the first 11 placed in special measures in 2013 has had both its main hospital sites rated as “good” by the CQC.

Following the inspections at Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals, the overall “requires improvement” rating for East Lancashire Hospitals Trust is likely to be reassessed in the coming weeks. If it is upgraded, it will be the second of the “Keogh 11” to have been led out of the mire by Kevin McGee. He was also chief executive at George Eliot Hospital Trust when it achieved a “good” rating in 2014.