HSJ’s round-up of the must read stories from Monday

Colchester’s problems ‘worse than I thought’

A penny for the thoughts of senior managers at Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust, after the troubled hospital’s new chief executive issued a damning assessment of his new fiefdom.

Nick Hulme, who is now chief executive of Colchester in addition to his existing role running Ipswich Hospital Trust, told HSJ: “The scale of challenge in terms of governance, operational improvement, quality, safety, culture are much greater than I had imagined.

“It doesn’t feel like an organisation that has control of its day to day functioning in terms of governance [and] risk management.”

Mr Hulme told HSJ he envisages a merger between his trusts within the next two years. But the new broom, who started in May, is clear that a lot of patient safety, operational and governance issues must be addressed before going through such a move is credible.

A long, windy and bumpy road lies ahead for the trust, which received a stinker of a Care Quality Commission inspection report earlier this month in which it was rated inadequate overall and inadequate in four of the five core inspection areas.

A financial picture to make you squirm

The Department of Health accounts, released during last week’s policy bonanza, “have rarely made such interesting reading” – so say Anita Charlesworth and Richard Murray.

The Health Foundation and King’s Fund experts have got stuck into the minutiae of the 2015-16 documents in a comment piece on hsj.co.uk, and importantly look at what it means for the NHS in 2016-17.

They warn that “most of the funding for transformation has been eaten up by the imperative of financial stabilisation”, and “the DH and commissioners have little or no financial wriggle room” in the pursuit of efficiencies.

“There is no contingency for a bad winter or any other major health incidents,” they add.

So what comes next? “To deliver control of the money requires a real handle on the underlying resources – namely workforce,” say Charlesworth and Murray. “Somewhat counterintuitively, to deliver control the NHS needs more permanent staff – but it also needs to focus on workforce productivity. This must lead to a single-minded focus on using the skilled workforce well.”