The must read stories in health policy from Tuesday

Derbyshire’s next chapter

Two more trusts look to be set on merging in the Midlands as part of a local sustainability and transformation plan.

Internal emails seen by HSJ reveal the board and governors at Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust and Derbyshire Community Health Services FT have agreed to talk about closer working between the two organisations.

The message to staff at both trusts make clear that Derbyshire Healthcare FT will not progress with the appointment of a permanent chair or chief executive at the moment, though this decision will be kept under review.

To most observers this is the obvious first step in the usual NHS mating ritual that will likely lead to DCHS merging with or taking over the mental health trust.

This has already happened in the West Midlands where Tracy Taylor, chief executive of Birmingham Community Healthcare, has been appointed joint CEO at the neighbouring Black Country Partnership mental health trust.

There are no doubt benefits to bringing the two Derbyshire providers together, particularly around integration and new care models.

But it would also serve to close the book on Derbyshire Healthcare’s troubled recent past. It was rocked by a sexual harassment scandal that preceded the chief executive Steve Trenchard resigning this year and former HR director Helen Marks being awarded £832,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal after her treatment by the former chair Alan Baines.

NHSI list under scrutiny

More trust leaders have told HSJ that NHS Improvement was wrong to target their organisation in its list of 63 trusts it believes have over-recruited staff and have “excess growth” on their pay bill.

Last week hospital bosses suggested the regulator’s methodology was “totally flawed” and did not take into account issues like service transfers, historical understaffing and demand increases.

This feeling has been echoed by more senior figures from across the country. Em Wilkinson-Brice, deputy chief executive at Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust, said its £15.6m penalty was wrong and the trust would be asking NHSI to publish a revised list. “Our figures show that like for like we are in fact reducing our pay bill in this financial year,” she added.

University Hospitals of Leicester Trust chief executive John Adler said the pay bill growth there reflected significant transfers of new services to the trust.

NHSI said it had nothing to add and would not be responding to questions about its methodology or analysis of pay bill spending.