The essential stories in health from Thursday

Contract talks

A number of commissioners and providers have been “absolutely miles apart” in their contract negotiations, the chief executive of NHS Improvement said on Thursday.

Local contracts for the next two years that were not signed at the start of the week have entered a mediation process ahead of the national deadline on 23 December. Jim Mackey said local organisations need to “cut through” the traditional “arm wrestling” over contracts.

The current contracting round is especially challenging due to the tight timescale set by national bodies, as well as the need to cover the next two financial years rather than one. The tough financial targets issued to CCGs and providers have added to the difficulty of the negotiations.

Mr Mackey called for organisations to “be reasonable” and not to “just focus on shifting risk to other parts of the system”.

Meanwhile, commissioners have raised concerns with NHS England about their allocations being reduced as a result of the new national payment tariff.

In a note seen by HSJ, NHS Clinical Commissioners said it had written to the national body “in the strongest terms” over the potential impact of the tariff on CCG finances.

Prop co’s finally merge

The Department of Health is to create a new property company to replace the two that currently exist. The move is in response to a recommendation in the forthcoming report by Sir Robert Naylor on the NHS estate.

The new entity will replace NHS Property Services and Community Health Partnerships. It will be chaired by Ian Ellis, the current chair of NHS Property Services.

A merger of NHS Property Services and CHP, which are both wholly owned by the DH, was first proposed three and a half years ago.

HSJ reported way back then that the DH was due to set up a programme of “joint working” between the two firms with a view to a merger in 2015.

More recently, in October Simon Stevens told HSJ that NHS England was exploring the possibility of NHS organisations keeping their land sale receipts to invest in new services, rather than surrender them to central government.