HSJ’s round-up of Monday’s must read stories and debate

Acid test for parity of esteem

NHS England has made its first step to meeting the “acid test” of new cash pledged for the mental health sector reaching the front line, but more than a fifth of commissioners have fallen at the first hurdle.

The national body has published a dashboard to show how CCGs are faring against various quality and performance indicators, including how much they are investing in mental health.

Analysis by HSJ has found that 46 of the country’s 209 CCGs have failed to raise their mental health budgets from 2015-16 to 2016-17 by the same percentage as their overall allocation increase – which is an NHS England requirement.

Eight of those CCGs failed to raise their mental health budgets at all, effectively cutting their spending in cash terms this year.

Increasing mental health spending at least in line with CCGs’ overall budgets is a key element for assessing whether commissioners are meeting the “parity of esteem” policy for mental and physical health.

NHS Confederation chief executive Stephen Dalton has previously said making sure cash reaches frontline services will be the test for the £3.97bn plans for the sector to meet the recommendations of the Mental Health Taskforce.

The dashboard is a key development and sets the bar for how commissioners will be judged as the plans move from promises to delivery.

It also gives the public the tools it needs to judge whether pledged increases are reaching the mental health sector and how they are being spent, effectively allowing us to judge whether commissioners are passing the acid test.

Richards’ regulation prediction

Regulation “might well move” to a single organisation overseeing both quality and finance in the future, the Care Quality COmmission’s chief inspector of hospitals has said.

Sir Mike Richards was responding to a question at an HSJ webinar last week about whether it was still necessary for NHS Improvement and the CQC to exist separately. He said: ”I think this is a process of evolution now - whether we will have separate quality and finance regulation in five years’ time, who knows? This is where we are and we are making it work and we are making it work effectively. I think it is considerably better that we [now] have two organisations not three [as before NHS Improvement was created] so that is progress.”

Asked what system would be the best arrangement in an ideal situation, Sir Mike said: “We might well move in due course - but I’m not calling for this is any sort of hurry - to an organisation that was the improver and an organisation that was both the financial and quality regulator. That could happen but I don’t think it’s a matter of saying this has got to happen now as I really don’t think that would be helpful.”

He also said “finding a solution” for how best to assess efficiency is the “most challenging” issue the CQC faces in the year ahead.

STPs tracker map

Check HSJ’s latest map to see which sustainability and transformation plans have been published to date, and links to the relevant HSJ stories and documents.

The most recent developments have been in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and north west London.