The must read stories and talking points in the NHS

Merger milestone

Perhaps the biggest organisational change taking place in Greater Manchester has now been formally approved by regulators.

The Competition and Markets Authority has cleared the planned merger of Central Manchester University Hospitals FT and University Hospital of South Manchester FT, saying it would bring “substantial benefits” for patients that will outweigh any damage caused by a loss of competition.

The deal is seen as a key element of the transformation plans for the city of Manchester, as well as the Greater Manchester devolution project.

As previously reported, leaders in the city have known for the last few months that the deal was pretty much in the bag. So much so that the trusts have already formed an interim board.

They are now hoping to complete the transaction by October, which would be a remarkable turnaround given the plans were only announced publicly last summer.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the CMA’s decision is its declaration that financial pressures have “dampened the role of competition” in the NHS.

The regulator memorably blocked the merger of Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals FT and Poole Hospital FT in 2013, and these two trusts will clearly take heart from the Manchester decision as they prepare another application.

Although officially a merger, in practice the Manchester deal is more of a takeover. Bosses at CMFT are in all the lead roles on the interim board, with the chair and chief executive of UHSM taking deputy positions.

NHS goes back to school

A consortium of Imperial College London, Harvard and Edinburgh universities will run a new academy to improve digital skills across the NHS.

Establishing the £6m NHS Digital Academy was one of the key recommendations of Professor Bob Watcher’s review of NHS IT, with the American “digital doctor” highlighting a lack of digital skills, particularly at a senior level, in the health service.

The consortium will be expected to train 300 NHS staff over the next three years with each participant going on a 12 month course focused on digital skills.

It will be led by Rachel Dunscombe, digital director at Salford Royal Foundation Trust – one of the NHS’s “global digital exemplars” and another partner in the academy programme.

Jeremy Hunt will announce the first cohort of students at the Health and Innovation Expo in September. Around half of the first 100 will be from the 23 global digital exemplar trusts, while the remaining places will be open to applicants from the wider NHS.