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In a week of U-turns in NHS land, it was fitting that after a trust chair was criticised for “poor and inappropriate behaviour” he publicly declared a change of heart at a board meeting yesterday.

Steve Field, who alongside CEO David Loughton was subject to an NHS England review about his conduct on the board of Walsall Healthcare Trust, was reported to have previously said he was “ashamed to call himself chair”.

But yesterday, after the report’s findings were published in the trust’s board papers, Professor Field made a public apology, declaring he was now “really proud” to have the role.

“It was difficult when I took over, but actually I feel really good about it,” he said.

The experienced leaders were brought in last spring to bolster improvements at Walsall, but just months later concerns were raised about their behaviour, prompting the NHSE review.

Mr Loughton was reported to have called board members ‘useless’ while both are said to have described Walsall as being “similar” to Mid Staffs.

Since NHSE sent the report to leaders last year, the organisation says board culture has improved significantly.

It means that despite its criticisms, NHSE is now supporting extensions to the pair’s tenures at Walsall.

The transformation masterplan

Details are now emerging about the intentions of Tim Ferris – the man responsible for transforming the NHS into a more efficient and digitally advanced health service which belongs in the 21st century.

Readers will recall that Dr Ferris, a former health chief in US, was appointed to lead NHSE’s new transformation directorate last year as part of plans to improve the efficiency of NHS services.

With tech bodies NHSX and NHS Digital being merged with NHSE, Dr Ferris will have full control of the NHS’ digital and transformation agenda and this year marks the start of his plans being put in place.

So what are his plans?

A draft document, seen by HSJreveals a raft of ambitions that will test the NHS’ ability to transform itself more than the pandemic did.

Under the plans, electronic systems and clinical decision support software must become “the norm” for all NHS clinicians, with such systems currently used “inconsistently” across the NHS.

There are also plans to expand virtual wards and install electronic patient records at every trust within the next three years.

Integrating data, using predictive technology to prevent disease, and leveraging the NHS’ purchasing power is three other priorities, with 10 set out in total.

More details will follow, but Dr Ferris also needs to ensure NHSX and NHS Digital’s integration with NHSE – in a programme led by former NHSE chief operating officer Mark Cubbon – is completed without too much collateral damage.

Also on today

In a comment piece, our editor Alastair McLellan and correspondent Annabelle Collins say that the U-turn on covid vaccination will leave a toxic legacy of mistrust, and this week’s Recovery Watch looks at how trust leaders can win the hearts and minds of staff and improve morale by showing they are also serious about elective recovery.