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

A trust pressured into commissioning an external review of dozens of suicides faces fresh criticism this week about the probe’s credibility after it emerged the investigation will not investigate each case but instead look to “identify themes”.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust originally said it would carry out the review of more than 60 patient suicides internally. But following criticism, it U-turned on this decision and last month agreed to an externally-led process.

The overarching review was prompted after an internal investigation by a senior trust clinician, carried out in July 2021, concluded the record of a patient who died by suicide was wrongly altered, with a care plan added to their notes the day after their death.

In a letter to the mother of the patient, 33-year-old Charles Ndhlovu, CEO Anna Hills said the external review “will not focus on reinvestigating individual cases, however it will enable us to identify themes”.

But Des McVey, a consultant nurse who carried out the first investigation, told HSJ: “They need to fully investigate each case otherwise the review will be completely inadequate.”

The trust pledged to carry out this investigation more than a year ago but the terms of reference have still not been finalised.

In demand

There has been no shortage of stories suggesting a surge in demand for private healthcare amid the aftermath of the covid pandemic. The latest evidence of this can be found in the accounts for Genesis Cancer Care UK.

The company’s annual filing revealed its turnover had grown nearly 20 per cent in the year to June 2022 to £100m. It added its income had increased by a further 20 per cent in the subsequent 12 months, with “positive profit and revenue momentum with increased demand for private healthcare as a result of NHS backlogs post covid”.

The accounts should be read in light of the NHS’s recent failure to meet targets to reduce the number of patients waiting more than 62 days to begin cancer treatment following an urgent GP referral back to pre-pandemic levels (around 15,000 people). Data released this month showed the total number of patients waiting was 24,000 – roughly the same position as July 2020. 

And, earlier this year, MPs said there was “little evidence of serious effort” to hit the long-term plan target to diagnose 75 per cent of cancers at stages one and two by 2028.

Also on today

Ambulance trusts have been warned the National Ambulance Resilience Unit could close next spring amid ongoing delays in putting its new contract out for tender, although NHS England has denied any risk the specialist unit will close. Meanwhile, this fortnight’s The Download takes a look at the latest numbers for virtual wards.