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

May hints she could accept demands for legislation

There have been rumours and much grumbling about the future of the Health and Social Care Act almost since the day it was passed by Parliament.

Now the prime minister has made it clear that if necessary the government will legislate to improve the NHS’s ability to make transformative changes and allow the closer integration and collaboration that many say just isn’t possible under the existing laws.

Setting out the detail behind the government’s 3.4 per cent funding boost, the PM said: “Where legislation is making it harder for professionals from different parts of the NHS and different local authorities to work together – we should be prepared to change it.”

Meanwhile, there will be a clinically led review of current performance standards, in order to “confirm the NHS is focused on the right targets”.

She also said she believed NHS managers were wasting too much time on bureaucracy after she met with senior leaders. She said: ”Those who were innovating felt they were going against the grain. They described the competing incentives that lead to negotiations between different organisations at every step, and business cases and templates that seem to put process ahead of patients.

“Those who were taking on struggling trusts said their organisations were not compensated for their effort and wasted too much time on reporting.”

Also making their pitch today was mental health taskforce chair Paul Farmer, who has told HSJ the new government funding deal must prioritise mental health services - a sector long neglected and only just beginning to see some tangible support.

Mr Farmer said funding needed to be targeted at raising mental health workforce levels, developing real waiting times, and investment in areas such as prevention work in schools, social care and other areas. 

Read the PM’s speech in full here.

Workforce trouble for private provider

When it comes to the health workforce, even private providers can’t escape the national shortages in clinical staff.

HSJ has revealed how workforce woes at Vocare, one of the largest private providers of urgent and out of hours services, are causing trouble for its urgent care services in Staffordshire.

The company provides urgent care, out of hours, and NHS 111 services for the county but has had to temporarily step away from the GP streaming services it provides to University Hospitals of North Midlands Trust.

UHNM, which runs one of the most challenged A&Es in the country, will be taking over the streaming services following a Care Quality Commission inspection into the co-located urgent care centre run by Vocare.

According to sources, one of the CQC’s key concerns was the private provider’s staffing levels. This chimes with a CQC report published this month on Vocare’s GP out of hours service.

Vocare have told HSJ the service is being temporarily run by the NHS trust while it relocates the urgent care centre, currently in the Royal Stoke University Hospital, to a newly refurbished premises.