The must read stories and debate in health policy

Look who’s ‘coasting’ now

Jeremy Hunt has accused some private sector hospitals of having “coasted” on safety, and warned they could be made to pay costs when the NHS has to take over care of their patients, in a strongly-worded intervention via an exclusive HSJ interview.

He told HSJ some “had coasted” on improving safety standards, and has written to private provider chiefs to ask them to up their game.

With reference to the appearance of some private hospitals, he told HSJ: “It’s sadly not the case that just because you have a nice reception and carpeted corridors that automatically means that care is going to be of an equally high quality.” Ouch.

This unusual intervention seems to have elicited a more relaxed popular reaction than the last time the health and social care secretary famously deployed the C word.

Back in 2013, around the time of the Francis report, he said some NHS organisations were “coasting” on safety, prompting obligatory grumpiness on the part of NHS staff and representatives, who apparently felt they were working jolly hard.

Anyone pointing out that Mr Hunt may fancy himself as the next prime minister, and that this latest intervention is a bit of tactful positioning, is just a big cynical meanie.

Don’t blame the IT

A former top screening adviser to the government has challenged key claims it has made in the ongoing storm about “serious failings” in breast screening, including that problems were caused by a “computer algorithm failure”. 

Dame Valerie Beral was chair of Department of Health and Social Care’s Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer Screening from 2002 to 2011, so knows a thing or two about the programme. She currently co-directs the major breast screening age extension trial (AgeX) at Oxford University

Dame Valerie told HSJ she did not agree with a number of assertions made about what had happened, including that there had been a “computer algorithm failure”. Instead she thinks the issue may be the result of a big misunderstanding about how the screening programme operates – specifically how cohorts are selected to be invited.

Other senior sources have similarly said they think computers may be unfairly copping the blame. It’s a complicated one - read the detail here.