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

Rarely before have we seen health inequalities so at the forefront of public consciousness – and experts want to elicit tangible change from this momentous shift.

While NHS England has set out actions for reducing health inequalities, and the government is reviewing whether racial bias exists in medical equipment, there are calls to go even further.

Habib Naqvi, director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, has called for NHS organisations’ performances on the issue to be scrutinised by an external body.

In an exclusive interview, he told HSJ that health inequalities should be “in the mix” with the NHS’s key performance metrics, such as elective waiting times and A&E targets.

He said: “No longer should we be in the position where organisations are setting their own exam question and marking their own exam answers.

“We need that level of independent regulation of progress, and that’s the right thing.”

It comes as the RHO published a report, in collaboration with The King’s Fund, this week which urged for greater support and accountability of health inequalities leads.

The fear is that, without those added checks and balances, they risk becoming a “hollow gesture” and “tokenistic”.

They may well have a point.

Last knockings

The latest top appointments to ICSs yesterday left Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire ICS the only system still to announce whether it has appointed a chief executive.

Ed Garratt was confirmed as chief executive designate of Suffolk and North East Essex ICS. He is already executive lead of the ICS, and is accountable officer of the three clinical commissioning groups in the area. It was one of the second “waves” of ICSs to be designated, in 2018, as the concept was being developed. 

Former Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust CEO Kate Shields was confirmed as the ICS chief executive designate for the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly ICS. Ms Shields had held the role in its shadow form, while leading Kernow CCG, since the summer. 

Six ICSs have confirmed they have failed to appoint a chief executive, including five in the Midlands — Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, Black Country and West Birmingham, Coventry and Warwickshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, and Birmingham and Solihull.