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

A central component of the 2019 NHS long-term plan was shifting care out of hospitals, with the promise of more spending on primary and community services.

Yet HSJ has reported that the budget for a key plank of this agenda, the Ageing Well programme, has been slashed at the last minute. Instead of the anticipated £200m in 2022-23, NHS England confirmed to HSJ it would remain “in line” with current funding levels – around £70m.

The totals involved might be small in NHS terms, but the hefty cut to the Ageing Well budget will undoubtedly have an impact on the rollout of these services, which by their nature support some of the most vulnerable patients, including in care homes.

British Geriatrics Society president Jennifer Burns said she was “horrified” at the reduction and hit out at a “lack of communication” from NHS England.

In response, NHSE said the programme remained a priority and pointed to an extra £200m it was allocating to virtual wards. But Dr Burns said that although virtual wards would go “some way to helping with hospital admissions”, they were “no substitute” for the original commitments.

On the down side

The number of executive directors from ethnic minority backgrounds on NHS trusts’ boards has declined for the first time since records were first collected four years ago, an NHS England report has revealed.

The latest workforce race equality standard has found the figure declined from 155 in 2020 to 144 in 2021.

It comes after figures saw a year-on-year increase since it was just 111 in 2018.

London saw the largest drop of any region, from 51 down to 44, while the Midlands had the biggest increase as they went from 25 to 31.

However, 2021 also saw its largest increase in ethnic minority non-executive directors on trusts’ boards in four years, climbing from 181 in 2020 up to 278 the following year.

What’s more is this year’s report also revealed the average game between ethnic minority representation among executive directors on NHS trusts’ boards, and ethnic minority representation in their overall workforces, has grown year on year since 2019.

This increased from 11 per cent that year to 12.6 per cent in 2021.

While the overall gap has decreased, from 10.6 per cent to now 8.9 per cent, this was largely attributed to non-executive directors.

Also on today

A trust chief executive who behaved “poorly and inappropriately” in his role as interim CEO of another acute provider has been appointed permanent boss of both organisations, and in a comment piece, Leanora Volpe says covid’s impact on marginalised communities has given impetus to a new approach to tackling health inequalities.