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

This week another report exposing scandalous care of people with learning disabilities within an inpatient unit called Cawston Park was published.

Much of the media, HSJ included, focused on the shocking care and the report’s suggestion that private providers should not be delivering inpatient services and the NHS shouldn’t be paying them.

This may be a fair challenge. Most of the high-profile scandals in the last 10 years have been of privately run units: Winterbourne View, Whorlton Hall, and now Cawston Park.

However, one HSJ reader pointed out in comments that suggesting “private providers shouldn’t deliver mental health is akin to the Francis Report saying NHS providers shouldn’t deliver acute care. There are great and poor providers (and everything in between) in public private and third sectors”.

Private sector providers are unavoidably part of the mental health and LD inpatient market. It is true care scandals within the LD sector have occurred within NHS-run facilities, too. Southern Health anyone?

To get to the core of the problems and lack of improvement in care for people with LD and autism, perhaps we must look past private vs NHS provision and to why the whole model of inpatient care is inappropriate?

Promise of stability

Staff at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital Trust haven’t exactly enjoyed a stable leadership throughout the pandemic. The trust’s former chief executive, Toby Lewis, went on sick leave in May 2020, and was subsequently appointed to a role at the Nuffield Trust. It is only this week that a permanent replacement was appointed.

Richard Beeken, who has been interim chief executive, on secondment from Walsall Healthcare Trust, since February, has been given the permanent gig.

Mr Beeken’s appointment to Sandwell and West Birmingham also paves the way for potential permanent chief executive changes at Walsall Healthcare Trust, which David Loughton CE of Royal Wolverhampton is care taking.

The chief executive position is not the only one to have changed for SWBH in the last year. In March Sir David Nicholson was appointed chair for SWBH in March 2021. Before this the board appointed a new chief people officer, acting nurse and chief operating officer.

Staff will hope now that the appointment of Mr Beeken and Sir David will spell a period of stability for the trust.