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

Two big names in NHS management are out of the running for the health service’s top job.

HSJ has learned that former NHS Improvement chief executive Sir Jim Mackey is no longer a candidate to replace Sir Simon Stevens, while two national newspapers reported on Sunday that NHS Improvement chair Dido Harding has also been unsuccessful.

Shortlisting is believed to have been carried out last week, with the trio of KPMG senior partner Mark Britnell, NHS England deputy CEO Amanda Pritchard and Leeds City Council CEO Tom Riordan all making the cut.

According to The Sunday Times, Baroness Harding was turned down by new health and social care secretary Sajid Javid, in what the newspaper remarked should be interpreted as an attempt to put distance between Mr Javid and his predecessor Matt Hancock.

The Mail on Sunday claimed Ms Pritchard was the “frontrunner” for the job, and – given her current role as deputy CEO – this would not be a surprise.

However, Mr Britnell and Mr Riordan both have strong track records and should not be written off. Could there also be other candidates in the fold?

The applicants face a series of interviews in the next few weeks. Sir Simon steps down on 31 July after seven years in charge. His successor’s to-do list looks more daunting than in 2014, meaning the government cannot afford to get this decision wrong.

Caretaker or takeover?

Collaboration, not competition, is supposed to be the way the NHS will do business in the Brave New World of integrated care systems and alliance contracting (the clue’s in the name).

Despite a move to new ways of working, providers in North East Essex have found themselves in a predicament as old as the hills: a tussle over power and money.

A £440m community services contract was due to be handed over to a new provider alliance this month, as we reported yesterday, but the partners have failed to agree contractual terms and predicted it could take a further 18 months to do so.

Local commissioners and the alliance said the delay was due to the pandemic – and this is certainly a credible reason. But one of the partners also raised concerns of a power grab by the local acute trust, which has been handed the services in an interim “caretaker” arrangement. Read more about it here.