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

Love in

With the government appearing ever closer to collapse, the new health and social care secretary might not be around for long.

Jeremy Hunt became the longest serving health secretary in history just before his departure, but the Brexit odds could make his replacement, Matt Hancock, one of the shortest serving.

Nevertheless, Mr Hancock has set his stall out to the NHS in an exclusive editorial for HSJ, in which he vows to defend “undervalued” staff, tackle bullying and harassment, and embrace new technology and artificial intelligence.

He also looks to dispel the fears raised by prominent campaigners over his links to the Institute of Economic Affairs – a think tank which has always shown open hostility to the NHS – by declaring: “I love the NHS and will always believe in it”.

Take of that what you will.

Promote the deputy

Some of the biggest shoes in provider land have been filled from within, following the appointment of Dame Julie Moore’s successor.

Dr David Rosser, the medical director and deputy chief executive of University Hospitals of Birmingham Foundation Trust, is set to be promoted to the top job when Dame Julie steps down in September.

Group think

In one of his later roles at the Department of Health and Social Care, Ian Dalton was responsible for the “foundation trust pipeline”. It was a different era and the plan was such that even the most laggardly trusts would have achieved the coveted designation by 2014. This was before the Francis report.

There was a small wave of mergers that removed some of the organisations from the list that Mr Dalton, and later the NHS Trust Development Authority, were working through.

The minimum turnover for a trust to be considered viable also started to rise.

Now, he is back overseeing a provider sector, which is progressing a larger wave of mergers and acquisitions – and one organisation considered capable of FT status on its own back in the Coalition days is being considered for merger.

North Middlesex University Hospital Trust was going to be the workhorse district general hospital in north central London, taking on acute work from a Chase Farm Hospital that had been stripped of its accident and emergency. It would do so from new estate.

While the situation has stabilised slightly, overall the A&E position at the trust for the last two years has been parlous.

So, it was considered good news when the Royal Free, fresh from taking over Barnet and Chase Farm, took a greater involvement in its neighbour.

A Royal Free director was made chief executive of the trust, and Royal Free group chief executive Sir David Sloman was made accountable officer.

The stage seemed set for a full acquisition with new NMUH chief executive Maria Kane acting as a hospital director, similar to the other three hospital directors employed in the Royal Free group.

But it was recently revealed NHS Improvement had removed the designation from Sir David and given it to Ms Kane.

What this means for an acquisition is unclear, and the trust did not want to explain why the change had been made. Could it have anything to do with the financial travails of the Royal Free London FT itself, which reported an underlying deficit of almost £100m last year.