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

Hammond out, Skidmore in

If reviews of his books on English monarchs are anything to go by, then Chris Skidmore’s appointment to the Department of Health and Social Care as a health minister looks a good move by new prime minister Boris Johnson.

The appointment, announced late on Thursday evening, came with the end of Stephen Hammond’s tenure at 39 Victoria Street, with Sky News reporting BoJo “fired” him – his aversion to a no-deal Brexit probably did not curry much favour with the new PM, at the very least.

Enter Mr Skidmore, a former education and business minister with a penchant for late medieval and Tudor history.

The MP for Kingswood studied history at Oxford University and has clearly put the knowledge gleaned to good use by publishing four books on English monarchs.

The subjects of his literature include the enigmatic king Richard III, whose turbulent and bloody reign continues to enthral historians today.

If Mr Skidmore needs to understand the politics – and sometimes cut-throat nature – of the NHS, then Daily Insight suggests being a scholar of “Dick the Turd” should put him in good stead for the task ahead.

Hopefully his experience at DHSC will be sufficiently productive to enable him to draw comparisons with the better-regarded monarchs featured in his books, such as Elizabeth I.

No buy in for a buyout

It was a private finance initiative that gave London’s Euston Road the high-rise glass and steel of University College London Hospital Foundation Trust’s main building.

But, 10 years after the trust’s PFI building works were completed, UCLH wants to find a way out of its PFI contract.

It has done some sums and thinks it could save at least £30m a year by terminating the contract at a cost of £550m. And that would include the annual cost of servicing the debt they would use to foot the bill.

Alas for the denizens of Euston, Whitehall has not looked fondly on this idea.

The Department of Health and Social Care is opposed to it, the trust says, because it will take a huge chunk out of its departmental expenditure limit for capital, the amount of money it has been allocated by HM Treasury to spend on capital projects.

And HM Treasury are against the idea, the trust tells HSJ, because cancelling the contract would result in a pile of debt appearing on the government’s balance sheet.

Such are the dilemmas that HMT and others will continue to grapple with if they want the NHS to start building again.