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

A pledge from health and social care secretary Sajid Javid to the Care Quality Commission indicates the CQC will be handed new powers. 

The promise is made in a letter from the health secretary to Health and Social Care Committee chair Jeremy Hunt, seen exclusively by HSJ.

An amendment will be made to the government’s Health and Care Bill to give “new powers” to the CQC, Mr Javid confirmed.

The letter says: “The committee proposed that [integrated care systems] should be held accountable for the quality and safety of care through transparent CQC assessments. My officials have been working closely with the CQC and NHS England to develop detailed proposals to include in the bill as an amendment.

“These new powers for the CQC are an opportunity not only to inform the public about the quality of health and care in their area, but also a way to review progress against our aspirations for delivering better, more joined-up care across ICSs.”

Currently the CQC can only review systems with permission from the health secretary and does not have the power to rate them. Read about the full contents of the letter here.

Eight hours for a blue light

Ten per cent of urgent patients waiting for an ambulance in the North West had to wait eight hours or more during June, we reported yesterday.

They waited 3h 18m 28s on average — compared with a national average of 1h 54m 40s — while 10 per cent of those calls in the region took over 7h 53m 55s to reach, compared with an average of 4h 35m 23s. In February, category 3 performance was under 45 mins nationally and was at 1h 35m 52s for the North West.

The North West has been the region hardest hit in the most recent wave of covid, with hospitals reporting significant rises in the numbers of covid patients during June.

Patients in the region had the longest waits in the county for a category 3 call — which are classed as “urgent” cases which, while not being life-threatening, need treatment to relieve patient suffering.

The number of 999 calls answered nationally each day, at 29,700, was the highest since the current ambulance standards were introduced in 2017 and were 15 per cent higher than May. The number of calls answered has risen dramatically since February this year when they were at 20,700 — the lowest number since the peak of the first wave of the pandemic.