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

There can be few more heartbreaking stories of NHS failings than that of Harry Richford, who died aged just seven days old after a botched delivery and resuscitation. It will haunt East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust for years to come but as well as the damage to its reputation it will now cost it significant amounts of money.

The trust faces an unlimited fine after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to provide safe care, and treatment causing harm, to Harry and his mum Sarah. It’s the first time a trust has faced a Care Quality Commission prosecution for breaching fundamental standards, focused around the quality of clinical care rather than issues primarily related to estates. Previous fines have been in the low hundreds of thousands but fines in cases brought by the Health and Safety Executive have been higher.

EKHUFT will point to the improvements it has made to maternity services since the case as a mitigating factor when it is sentenced on 18 June. But the judge may also be asked to consider how much work it took to get the trust to acknowledge the extent of its problems – and how it was Harry’s family which exposed many of those issues and led to both an inquest into his death and yesterday’s court case.

The tenacity that they have shown has been remarkable: that they needed to push so far does not reflect well on the NHS.

Great idea. In theory

A single HR, payroll, finance and procurement system covering the whole NHS sounds like a Good Idea, and NHS England/Improvement will be publishing a tender for such a service this summer, as we revealed yesterday.   

But as the procurement notice noted, this represents a “large and complex” IT project – the likes of which the NHS has a long and chequered history with, especially those which involve the top-down one-size-fits-all solutions.

Don’t expect any changes any time soon though. The complexity of the task means a three-year extension to the existing state of affairs has been agreed from April 2021 to March 2024 to “allow sufficient time for a robust governance and procurement process and provide enough time for design and implementation”.