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

NHS England has a new non-executive director and it is someone who will be no stranger to the problems facing the health service or social care.

Sir David Behan is currently the chair of Health Education England and has been an “associate non-executive director” first at NHS Improvement and latterly at NHSE since 2019. His ascension to full NED is for an initial term running for 16 months, from September this year to December next, which should encompass HEE being subsumed into NHSE (due to happen by 1 April 2023).

He has held and continues to hold roles elsewhere in the health and care firmament, in addition to his chairship at HEE and ongoing NEDship at the national commissioner.

After a career in the health and care world he was chief executive of the Care Quality Commission for six years until 2018, whereupon he moved to HEE’s board and took up a post on care home provider HC-One’s board, first as a NED, then chairman, now as “senior adviser”.

All this should give him plenty of insight into the significant challenges facing staff on all points of the health and social care map. Whether he can bring a fresh perspective, new ideas and a diversity of thought to dealing with those challenges remains to be seen.

The A&E emergency

Raw mortality data has shown a consistent uptick in “excess deaths” in recent months.

There could be multiple reasons for excess mortality, but some commentators have speculated the current operational pressures on the NHS are one of them.

Certainly, there are respectable studies that suggest delays within accident and emergency departments lead to preventable deaths.

Doctors are becoming increasingly frustrated by the situation, with senior medics at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan the latest to raise concerns.

HSJ saw an internal memo sent to staff at Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan this week, which warns it is becoming “increasingly common” for patients to die in A&E.

The memo suggests the department has reported five deaths in the latest weekly audit, when it would normally report one or two.

It added: “Over the last months, we have watched as the pressure of admissions didn’t drop. Summer came and the wards were just as full… The pressure on services is more extreme than the worst winter of the last 15 years.

“We know that overload leads to less good care and increased death rates… there is a patient with an empyema who should have had a drain put back in, but 41 hours later it hasn’t happened and they deteriorate. There are long waits for beds and patients remain in A&E for extended time, or die there.”

But with the cost of living crisis continuing to hog much of the media’s attention, is anyone listening?

Also on today

In Recovery Watch, James Illman asks: what’s the point of NHSE’s winter plan? And in news we report that DHSC officials are concerned many more people are dying than expected in recent months – particularly older working-age people – with NHS care delays and interruptions a likely cause.