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

One of the biggest hospital trusts in the country has been forced to cancel operations at one of its hospitals and turn ambulances away, just days after declaring a critical incident.

Whipps Cross in East London is at the epicentre of rising pressure across the capital, with local MP Stella Creasy also raising concerns about patient safety and whether vulnerable patients are being discharged with the vaccine.

The hospital is much smaller than Barts’ Royal London site. Across Barts Health Trust as a whole, there has been an increase in covid-positive patients of about 60 per cent in that period, to a total of more than 350.

However, despite being in its winter of need, Whipps’ neighbours are in no position to help out. Senior London sources have told HSJ things are “hotting up” in North Central and North East London.

With latest data revealing there are over 2,500 covid-19 positive patients occupying London’s hospital beds, additional critical care overflow space will surely be needed before the year is out.

A kick up the backside

The covid crisis gave the NHS a kick up the butt on taking staff wellbeing seriously which will last into 2021 – so say our mental health and workforce correspondents in this week’s HSJ Health Check podcast. Of course, the pandemic has also brought great stress and strain to much of the workforce.

And the legacy of the crisis for staffing – whether there is a post-covid exodus, or an influx due to business collapse and positivity about the health service – is one of the decisive questions for the coming year which we discuss in our latest edition.

There are also predictions of yet another restructure of the NHS’ national tech organisations, change in the service’s upper echelons – and a resettling of the contract between government and the health service, as it confronts a huge waiting list and growing mental health demand, with more stretched resources. And that’s once the monster task of covid vaccination is out of the way.

Hear predictions for the coming 12 months from HSJ’s Annabelle Collins, Dave West, Nick Carding and Rebecca Thomas.

You can listen to HSJ Health Check on the web, or on SpotifyApple Podcasts, and all the other popular podcast platforms.