HSJ’s round-up of the day’s essential health policy stories

Stop press: junior doctors contract agreement

Just as Daily Insight was about to publish on Wednesday evening, Acas announced that a deal had been reached between the BMA and the government on the junior doctors’ contract.

It brings to an end a three year dispute that has seen thousands of patient operations cancelled during strikes. But crucially, the deal will have to be agreed by the British Medical Association’s junior doctor membership before the contract can be implemented.

More haste less speed on merger

Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Foundation Trust and Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust edged a step closer to merging today.

The two Cambridgeshire trusts will consider and outline business case for merging by April 2017 at their board meetings early next week.

As exclusively revealed by HSJ in March, this is a plan which has been heavily pushed by Monitor, now NHS Improvement.

But is this sensible?

Certainly, the status quo is not an option for Hinchingbrooke. It has one of the largest deficits as a proportion of turnover in England, a £17.1m deficit on revenues of £112m for 2015-16, rendering it financially unsustainable. Lord Carter’s team identified it as the second most financially inefficient trust in the country.

But heading down the merger at pace route outlined in the business plan will almost certainly take the trusts on a bumpy journey.

There are already concerns such a tight timescale for the merger could result in a “rushed and acrimonious merger”, not to mention the obligatory ”hands off my hospital” campaign from a local MP, in this case Jonathan Djanogly.

There are no easy solutions for the Hinchingbrooke question, otherwise it would not have remained outstanding for so long. But system leaders need to be realistic about the timescale and savings such a move can deliver.

Hugely ambitious targets set out in a business plan may look nice on paper now, but they are only storing up problems for later.

Hill heads south

David Hill, chief executive of Humber Foundation Trust, is switching to a new leadership challenge in local government – leading not one organisation, but two.

Mr Hill will become joint chief executive of South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils. He has previously worked for South Oxfordshire District Council.

His departure comes ahead of an inspection report from the Care Quality Commission, which is expected to call for improvements to the trust’s mental health services. In his leaving statement, he said as much: “We know our forthcoming CQC report will confirm that we still have more work to do in some important areas, including in our mental health services.”

But he added: “It will also show that we have a very caring team of staff and that many of our services are already improved.”

The trust has started its search for Mr Hill’s successor.