The must read stories and biggest talking points in the NHS

Budget plans revealed

There could be more money on the way for the social care sector – but it will have strings attached.

HSJ revealed on Thursday that the CQC’s role could be extended to regulating local councils’ use of additional funds for social care, which are expected to be announced in next month’s budget.

Theresa May was heavily criticised following last year’s autumn statement for failing to provide additional funds for health or care. Senior NHS leaders have said any additional funds from the government should first go to social care. The PM did set up a Cabinet Office review of social care and integration at the end of 2016, which is understood to be looking at both short and long term action.

Several sources with knowledge of the new plans said talks were taking place between the Treasury, the Department of Health and the CQC.

The funding was described to HSJ as “short term stabilisation money” for social care, though the amount, timing and mechanism for the funding remain unclear.

Sources with knowledge of the talks said the CQC would be tasked by ministers with inspecting how councils use the money. The intention is to provide assurance to the Treasury that the money will deliver measurable improvements – both for social care users and to the NHS, by helping to reduce delayed transfers out of hospital.

The CQC already inspects social care providers, and oversees the care provider market, but it does not inspect local authorities’ commissioning responsibilities.

The plans are expected to be announced when the government delivers the spring budget on 8 March.

More Right Care rationing

Two more CCGs are under fire for introducing new restrictions to hip and knee replacements for obese patients, in apparent contradiction of national guidance.

What’s interesting about the new referral criteria for South Cheshire and Vale Royal CCGs is that they appear to have been sparked by the NHS Right Care data packs – as well as their dire financial situation.

It seems as though we can expect to hear many more stories like this, as every CCG in England has been sent a Right Care pack that highlights areas in which they are spending more than comparator organisations.

For the two Cheshire CCGs it sounds like there are more difficult decisions to come, as recent board papers note the need for “decommissioning services in order that CCGs meet their statutory obligations”.

New rules on death investigations

Every NHS trust will soon be required to review all patient deaths where a relative or a member of staff has raised concerns about the quality of care.

The measure is part of new requirements from the Care Quality Commission and NHS Improvement coming into force from April.

The changes are designed to provide greater transparency around deaths in hospital settings and provide a platform for organisations to identify and act on systemic issues that could contribute to patient harm.

The reforms follow the review of investigation of deaths in the NHS by the CQC last year in the wake of the death of Connor Sparrowhawk at Southern Health Foundation Trust in 2013.