Your essential round-up of the day’s biggest health stories

New NHSI chair’s job interview

The government’s candidate to be the next NHS Improvement chair, Baroness Harding, faced MPs on Tuesday to be interrogated at a pre-appointment hearing.

She received a few more tricky questions than your typical job interview (no one asked “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”).

The former TalkTalk boss was challenged on the company’s handling of a cyberattack in 2015. She said she was criticised for speaking out early (“I’ve been a pretty big thorn in the side of ministers who didn’t like what I was saying”) but this was the right thing to do for customers – and if the situation happened again she would want to speak out even earlier.

The baroness, who is a Conservative peer and married to MP John Penrose, was also asked about her political connections. She insisted she would recuse herself from all issues regarding Weston-Super-Mare, her husband’s constituency, would not vote on any health and social care issues in the Lords, and would be “cautious” about speaking on the subject.

Baroness Harding told the MPs she did not see being NHSI chair as a “cushy job”, and had some thoughts on the type of person who should follow Jim Mackey as chief executive. They must have experience of running big organisations and need to be a “superwoman or superman… steeped in the service”.

Maybe there’s still a place for heroic leadership in the NHS after all.

Private pounds

Income from private patient work carried out by NHS run units will grow by more than 5 per cent in each of the next three calendar years, researchers have predicted.

Analysis from Laing and Buisson, presented at the Private Acute Healthcare Market conference last week, predicted growth in income for NHS trusts from private patients growing by 6 per cent in 2018 and 7 per cent in both 2019 and 2020.

Income from NHS run private patient units is worth approximately £600m a year currently, the research showed.

NHS funded work as a proportion of independent hospitals’ income nearly doubled between 2007-08 and 2015-16. The proportion rose from 15.7 per cent to 29.9 per cent, with total annual turnover of £5.2bn in the most recent data.

Independent providers can carry out NHS funded work if a patient selects their facility under the choose and book GP referral system, if a commissioning body has outsourced procedures or if an NHS provider has put the work out to the private sector.

Independent providers are hoping the lengthening waiting lists for NHS funded treatment will see more of work referred to them and prompt some patients to self-pay.