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

The senior midwife tasked with investigating the NHS’s worst maternity scandals has criticised ministers for failing to provide the funding necessary to address ongoing problems. 

Donna Ockenden suggested progress on funding and improving maternity services was “extremely disappointing”, despite the Department of Health and Social Care fully endorsing the findings of her second report into care failures at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust.

Published in March 2022, that report reiterated the need to invest an additional £200m and £350m a year into maternity services immediately, a recommendation first made in July 2021 by now chancellor Jeremy Hunt, in his previous role as chair of the Commons health committee.

Now, Ms Ockenden has warned that services are still “only halfway there” on the money – and suggested the full £350m was needed to account for the effect of inflation and pay awards.

She told HSJ: “What I would like to say loud and clear to the government is that we are broadly 50 per cent of the way there in receiving the money we know is needed for maternity services, and we have to take into account the effect of inflation, and pay awards, and other costs. That is nowhere near good enough.”

Leadership lacking

An external review into a trust which suffered three major IT failures in two years has concluded it was let down by poor leadership and governance – and is still at “high risk”.

The report described the incidents in November 2021, November 2022 and June 2023 as “catastrophic”, with “a potential impact on patient safety”.

The failures at South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust all led to significant downtime for control room operations. 

The review’s author Barry Thurston, a consultant with the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, also argued the impact of the IT outages could have been mitigated with better decision-making and engagement with experts. He added the risk of another major IT outage “remains as high as it was prior to the failure in June 2023”.

Also on today

We report that a specialist hospital diverted patients to other centres at short notice rather than paying additional locum rates for doctors. And in Comment, Sir Muir Gray underscores the crucial role Federated Data Platforms plays in assessing spending, outcomes and ensuring equitable healthcare delivery.