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

The response to news that the health and social care secretary has created a new national body to carry out ‘independent’ investigations of maternity services, just a few days after a damning external review of the current safety watchdog’s culture, has perhaps been unsurprising.

“All that will happen is the same staff will transfer across to the new body and import the same culture and problems … have seen it so many times previously,” one HSJ reader has said.

According to a written statement from Mr Javid, the national maternity investigation programme will be run by a special health authority, because imminent “safe space” legal changes to HSIB will mean evidence given to it must be kept private – a measure which is not wanted for maternity investigations.

However, his predecessor Jeremy Hunt has made clear in comments this week that he is opposed to transferring maternity investigations to a new body, suggesting issues could be sorted out by the new leadership.

Although this was of course not the reason given for its creation, criticism of the maternity investigations team in the aforementioned review does hit home that there is much to do to mend its broken culture. 

Getting the needle

At a time of increased strain on services, delivering the government’s covid vaccine mandate has become a “massive task and distraction” for staff, according to a trust’s workforce chief.

The government has introduced legislation which requires all patient-facing NHS staff to have received their first covid jab by 3 February.

Failure to do so could see them redeployed or dismissed.

Norma French was speaking at Whittington Health Trust’s board meeting this week as chief executive Siobhan Harrington described the situation as “t-minus seven” – as in, there were seven days remaining until the deadline.

She said the trust will understand the cohort of staff who are in scope of the legislation, but remain unvaccinated, by 3 February, before adding: “We must not lose sight of post-April.

“We will have a group of staff who may be left working here who have lost colleagues, potentially, and also managers who may not have dealt with this level of interaction with colleagues over the previous two months and supporting them.”

The “resilience and mitigations” after 1 April will become “clear as every day goes by”, she added.

Meanwhile, Ms Harrington said community children’s services will become a focus area as “more conversations” might be needed.

Also on today

In The Integrator, Dave West unpicks former NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens’ latest attack on the government, and in our comment section you can read Mr Stevens’ actual speech to the Lords.