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

The national mental health director’s “shock” that ward managers are “quite often Monday to Friday people” has sparked a lively debate in the comments on HSJ.

Asked at the NHS Providers conference about recent reports into care scandals, such as that exposing abuse at the Edenfield Centre in Greater Manchester, Claire Murdoch said she was shocked to discover how many ward managers do not work weekends. She added that this could contribute to poor care and abuse going undetected.

Many HSJ readers were quick to point out that many wards operate with fewer senior staff on weekends and that this has been the case for some time. While others pointed out ongoing workforce issues and pay issues contributing to the problem. 

It is understood Ms Murdoch is concerned managers are spending too much time on bureaucratic tasks, which typically happen during Monday to Friday shifts, meaning they are then not working night or weekend shifts.

Her comments came amid weeks of the mental health sector being “rocked” by reports of poor care, with undercover reports into Essex Partnership FT and official investigations into Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Trust revealing serious, systemic failures. Ministers are currently considering a national inquiry.

Statement of intent

Denying reports that he told the chancellor the NHS didn’t need any more money, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay yesterday simultaneously indicated the health service will receive more funding in today’s autumn statement.

Responding to a question from HSJ following his speech at the NHS Providers annual conference in Liverpool, Mr Barclay said there would be additional cash to help offset inflation.

He said he “can absolutely confirm that we [the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS] do need support because of inflationary pressures”. The NHS has calculated inflationary pressures will create a funding shortfall of in the region of £7bn next year.

The health secretary also repeated the official stance that the Royal College of Nursing’s demand for a 17 per cent pay increase were “not realistic”. 

In relation to joint working between the DHSC and NHSE, Mr Barclay said: “Amanda [Pritchard] and I want to see the Department and NHSE working closely together on these shared priorities [of service recovery].” Announcing the appointments of Sarah-Jane Marsh and Professor Tim Briggs, he said these were “part of this close working” as they “will work closely across both the department and NHSE”.

Also on today

In London Eye, Ben Clover explains why it seems that in London, the nursing strike is not really about pay, and in a comment piece, Miriam Deakin says that while new challenges may surface on the horizon as winter approaches, trusts are doing excellent work every day to maximise the power of system working.