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

NHS England elective supremo Sir Jim Mackey’s exclusive in-depth interview with HSJ on the waiting list recovery plan is essential reading for all NHS leaders.

However, that doesn’t make it pleasant reading. As HSJ bureau chief James Illman notes in this week’s Recovery Watch column, the message feels equal parts rallying cry and “wake up and smell the coffee”.

Sir Jim warns trust leaders they face far more grip from regulators over the coming years. “We’re now going into a much more accountable, performance management-orientated world than I think most people have clocked,” he warns.

In a wide-ranging interview, Sir Jim also defends his decision to appoint management consultants to support integrated care systems with their recovery plans, and acknowledged NHS leaders should “worry about” public perception of the service.

He also lays bare how stark the challenge is of even assessing how big the waiting list could get in the coming years, let alone cutting it.

Spare a thought for Medway

It’s no great surprise George Findlay has been appointed University Hospitals Sussex Foundation Trust chief executive: he was always regarded as a strong contender for the role once Dame Marianne Griffiths announced her retirement. He knows the trust inside out and shared in Dame Marianne’s success at the former Western Sussex Hospitals FT.

But spare a thought for Medway FT where Dr Findlay has been interim chief executive since last May. He is likely to leave well before his 18-month term is up, leaving the trust in a conundrum: a quick appointment or another interim to allow more time to recruit?

HSJ understands there were concerns at the time of Dr Findlay’s Medway appointment that exactly this position would arise, but these were not enough to stop it going ahead. Medway had a bit of a torrid time with a period of unstable leadership, until 2015 when Lesley Dwyer was appointed as chief executive. There will be concerns this is returning. Governors, staff and local politicians are likely to be calling for someone who will stay the course to be appointed this time around.

Also on today

The government has said the Care Quality Commission and NHSE will be taking leadership and culture into account when judging trusts’ performance. Meanwhile, a trust with just one 52-week waiter has revealed its secret to staying on top of its waiting list: “attention to detail” on tracking and not overworking staff.