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

The Labour Party is keen to be seen as a government in waiting and last night the party’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth made a savvy attempt to steal the patient safety mantle from the Tories now that Jeremy Hunt has left the stage.

In a rare move, the Labour frontbench have drawn up specific policies on medical examiners and safe staffing with a view to introducing changes to the government’s planned Healthcare Safety Bill. This is due to be put through Parliament to give the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch a statutory footing.

The government will need to either accept the amendments or take a stance against two issues it has previously been in full support of.

The Department of Health and Social Care spent £1m on National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s safe staffing work and Jeremy Hunt was a keen advocate for independent medical examiners. Now, Labour wants to exploit the apparent lack of interest in safety policy by Matt Hancock.

How he responds to the challenge will say a lot about where his and the government’s priorities lie.

A rare sacking

A chief executive has been sacked after more than 12 years in post, HSJ has learned.

Ian Renwick was dismissed from his post leading Gateshead Health Foundation Trust after a disciplinary hearing on Friday.

The hearing was convened by chair Julia Hickey and the trust would not comment on the cause of the disciplinary proceedings.

According to board papers, Mr Renwick was at every board meeting up until June and July where he is listed in the minutes as an apology for absence.

There is no mention of why he was dismissed in the £222m turnover trust’s board papers for its meeting tomorrow and the FT said it would be “inappropriate to comment” further at this time.

His departure leaves more than one job open, with Mr Renwick also co-chair of the North East Urgent and Emergency Care Network and chair of the Newcastle Gateshead Local A&E Delivery Board.

Mr Renwick has 14 days to appeal the decision.

But the startling thing about the dismissal is how quietly the whole thing has been handled. The trust issued a statement following an enquiry from HSJ, but did not make any announcement at all on the day of Mr Renwick’s departure.

By Friday evening it appeared the trust had removed Mr Renwick’s profile from its board webpage and updated deputy chief executive and director of finance John Maddison’s profile to acting chief executive.

There was also no announcement of Mr Renwick being placed on, or taking any leave, as there was in the lead up to Sir Leonard Fenwick’s sacking from neighbouring Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust last year.