The must read stories in the NHS

Notable silences in the Queen’s speech

Ripping up and replacing the Mental Health Act was a big commitment for Theresa May.

New legislation for independence and legal powers for HSIB was a big commitment of Jeremy Hunt.

Then the election happened and such commitments have been lost in the chaos.

In the Queen’s speech on Wednesday – setting out the government’s legislative programme for a two year parliamentary session – several Tory manifesto pledges went unmentioned, and there was no firm plan for any new health and social care legislation.

The speech did include a “draft patient safety bill”. While drafts can develop into bills and then law during the session, it is a longer and more uncertain process. It may therefore mean that securing statutory independence and legal powers for HSIB is in the long grass until 2019.

Keith Conradi, the chief investigator for HSIB, has said he believes that without statutory powers the NHS could ignore HSIB’s recommendations and “no difference will be made”. The Conservative manifesto had committed the government to legislation.

The manifesto also included plans for scrapping and replacing the Mental Health Act, and reforming funding of long term social care. Her majesty’s speech includes no legislation for either of these but did note plans to “reform” mental health and carry out a consultation on elderly social care.

It made no mention of changing the law on professional regulation – something the sector has been pressing for; nor of any changes to support the development of “accountable care systems” in the NHS.

Workforce ambitions

Health Education England’s chief executive has said he wants to ensure the UK is self-sufficient for nurses and is aiming for a small surplus across all healthcare professions.

In an interview with HSJ, Professor Ian Cumming said a key focus for the education and training body would be improving the retention of staff in partnership with the wider NHS.

He said stemming the growing number of healthcare professionals choosing to leave the NHS was the key to ensuring it had enough staff.

“If we can take retention of our nursing workforce back to what we were achieving in 2012, the vacancy level goes down to 9,000, which is roughly 3 per cent. That is normal turnover.

“Eighty-seven thousand people in this coming period of four years will leave the NHS; 84,000, not necessarily the same people, will come back. What we’re saying is even if we can improve that by 10,000 it makes an enormous difference because by 2021 it means we won’t have any vacancies.”