The must read stories and debate in health today

Serious business in mental health

Since the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health was published, sector leaders have been grappling with meeting the “acid test” of making sure that new cash reaches the front line.

Tensions have always existed between commissioners and providers over how mental health is funded – with CCGs insisting they are investing in the sector but providers claiming the cash is not reaching services.

But NHS England directors are now taking radical action by requiring that trust chief executives sign off their CCGs’ mental health spending plans.

In a letter, signed by national medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, national mental health director Claire Murdoch and national operations and information director Matthew Swindells, they ask all CCGs to respond to NHS England’s regional teams by 27 February, jointly signed with their main mental health provider, alongside a general “refresh” of their financial and operational plans.

The letter highlights the “significant” national scrutiny the sector is under now that Theresa May has said children’s mental health is a priority.

It shows national leaders are worried new cash for mental health will not reach the front line unless they take action and fear the backlash from patients, the public and the media if they do not fulfil their spending promises.

This is a step in the right direction of bringing accountability and transparency to mental health spending, but it might take some time for the new cash to embed in the system and for us to see whether it is being invested where it was promised.

Whatever happens, it sends out a message that NHS England is taking its mental health pledges seriously.

Manchester united

Another landmark day for the development health and social care in Manchester.

The merger of North, South and Central Manchester CCGs has been approved, and its leadership team is mostly in place, creating the largest clinical commissioning group in the north of England.

The merger is set be implemented by April, with Ian Williamson (chief officer of Central Manchester CCG) as accountable officer for the new set-up.

Manchester was served by a single primary care trust prior to the creation of CCGs in 2013.

The running cost allowance for the merged CCG will be £12m next financial year, and a spokeswoman said there is an “aspirational” savings target of £1m resulting from the merger.

The three CCGs employ 260 staff, and Mr Williamson told HSJ around 70 per cent already work in joint teams.

The new CCG will also form a single commissioning organisation with Manchester City Council, however a full merger cannot be pursued under current legislation.