Today’s must read health stories and talking points

Hunt turns ups the volume

“The matter is closed” – that’s what health secretary Jeremy Hunt said when asked by HSJ if there was anything that would prevent the government from imposing the new junior doctors’ contract.

The health secretary also said that the proposed contract was “right for doctors”, and was “much safer” than the current deal.

The health secretary was speaking at a meeting convened by HSJ to discuss the government’s health policy and Mr Hunt’s leadership. Also present at the meeting were BMA council member and Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group chair Sir Sam Everington, Health Foundation chief executive Jennifer Dixon, Central and North West London Foundation Trust chief executive Claire Murdoch and HSJ editor Alastair McLellan.

And in a statement that has already wound up junior doctors on social media, Mr Hunt said he was “more in tune with doctors” than the BMA junior doctors committee.

Perhaps he had taken tips from the union, which he said was “brilliantly clever at winding everyone up on social media”.

The meeting took place on Tuesday, before the BMA’s junior doctors committee announced on Wednesday that it will escalate strike action planned for next month.

A full walkout, including emergency cover, will take place at 8am-5pm on 26 April and 8am-5pm on 27 April.

Emergency care will still be provided by juniors outside these hours, however all other junior doctors will be striking for the full 48 hours. Consultants, nurses and other staff will be providing emergency cover.

  • The in-depth conversation with Jeremy Hunt will be published on next week

Tech funding questions remain

HSJ revealed on Wednesday that NHS England has sent out draft guidance setting out the requirements for local digital roadmaps.

The long awaited guidance sets 10 core digital targets that local areas must be able to “demonstrate substantive delivery” on by March 2018.

But on the crucial question of funding, the guidance says the process for “accessing and criteria for allocating funding” was still being agreed.

It adds: “Over the next five years, funding of £1.3bn is to be distributed across local health and care systems to achieve the ambition of paper-free at the point of care. This is made up of £900m capital and £400m revenue.”

NHS England announced this breakdown of £1.3bn of the funding last month, but it said an additional £500m was still subject to negotiation.

If an additional £500m was found, it would take the total to the £1.8bn Jeremy Hunt said last month had been earmarked to “create a paper free NHS”.

The new guidance will help local areas shape their plans. But finding out how they can get their hands on more money – regardless of how much there is – remains a key issue to clarify.