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

Yesterday, a two-month delay was announced to NHS Digital’s data-sharing programme. Yesterday, the reinforcements were drafted in by Matt Hancock.

They are the UK’s top statistician Sir Ian Diamond and leading GP Helen Stokes-Lampard, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges chair, and their task is to work on the GP Data for Planning and Research programme following news that it would be temporarily halted.

The project was due to go live on 1 July but has been put back after concerns were raised that GPs and the public had not been adequately consulted.

Under the plan, most GP-held patient data will be automatically collected by NHSD for future use for health planning and research purposes.

The appointments of Sir Ian and Professor Stokes-Lampard come as NHSD’s new interim chief executive Simon Bolton warned “disproportionate” groups of people opting out of the scheme risked making the data “less useful” for researching new treatments and planning services.

Mr Bolton explained on HSJ why its controversial new GP data-sharing scheme is the right thing to do, and why it has now been delayed by two months.

Double take(over)

East Sussex Healthcare Trust is taking over a local independent hospital with the aim of keeping it mainly for private patients, we revealed today.

It is using some of its capital funds to buy the fixtures and fittings of the Spire Sussex Hospital, which is physically linked to the trust’s Conquest Hospital in Hastings. The trust intends to keep the local independent hospital for mainly private patients, 

The building, which has 22 beds and two operating theatres, had been leased to Spire and has operated as a private hospital since 1997.

Last week, Royal United Hospital Bath Foundation Trust announced it was taking over a Circle-owned local hospital. However, RUH said it will mainly do NHS work at the site, developing it as a “cold site” and diagnostic centre.

ESHT already has an income of around £3m a year from private patients. However, its current private patient unit — the Michelham unit at the Eastbourne District General Hospital — made losses of £91,000 in 2019-20 and £412,000 in 2018-19, according to its most recent annual report.