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The Department of Health and Social Care received 26 requests to intervene in NHS service changes during the first three months of the new reconfiguration regime, yet no decisions have been made, HSJ reveals.

A Freedom of Information Act response disclosed these 26 requests, linked to eight separate service reconfiguration proposals.

New ministerial powers to intervene in NHS reconfigurations — introduced in the Health and Care Act 2022 — came into effect at the end of January. HSJ sought details of requests from then until the end of April. The health and social care secretary had not intervened as a result of any of the 26 requests, indicating she had yet to decide.

The rule change allows the secretary of state to “call in” NHS service changes for review and lets the public request that changes be considered. January’s guidance expected requests only in “exceptional situations where local resolution has not been reached”.

Sarah Walter of the NHS Confederation’s Integrated Care System Network warned: “Removing the requirement for concerns to first be raised by integrated care boards and local authority-led health overview and scrutiny committees risks opening a Pandora’s Box of requests ministers lack time to consider.”

DHSC declined to comment.

Chair share

A major hospital trust and its neighbour will be the latest to appoint a joint chair later this month.

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust will be headed by Northumbria Healthcare FT’s current chair Sir Paul Ennals on an interim basis before the two trusts make a permanent appointment for the role later this year.

Sir Paul will be confirmed as joint chair of the two trusts at Newcastle FT’s annual general meeting on 17 July.

The move comes as several “hospital groups” across England have appointed joint chairs in recent months. The two acute trusts in the Tees area have also had a joint chair for several years — and have recently appointed a shared CEO.

Sir Jim Mackey moved from the top job at Northumbria FT to become CEO of Newcastle FT earlier this year. He has previously advocated closer working between the two trusts.

Northumbria FT has insisted the joint chair move “will not change the organisational independence of either trust”.

Also on

We report that the interim chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council has stepped down after one day in the role, over concerns about a race discrimination case. And if you haven’t caught this week’s episode, tune in to our Health Check podcast. This week we’re joined by Sally Gainsbury and Leonora Merry from the Nuffield Trust, who help us join the dots on the key issues for the NHS in the election campaign.