The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

The Department of Health and Social Care has extended the powers it gave NHS England over clinical commissioning groups from the end of this year to 31 March 2021. 

The powers allow NHS England to respond to coronavirus as it “deems appropriate”, but a statement on the DHSC’s website said they were likely to be used for the commissioning of non-NHS providers.

The move coincides with NHSE’s decision to continue with some centralised private sector deals for another three months which aims to provide a “smooth transition” to longer-term contracting arrangements. This week, Spire Healthcare Group, one of the large providers involved in discussion with NHSE, issued a statement confirming a new three-month deal had been struck.

The extension also fits with the timeline for the whole of England to become integrated care systems by April 2021. It is not yet clear how ICSs will commission care in the financial year 2021-22 as CCGs are slowly phased out, although one suggestion has been that come April 2021 ICSs may be asked to commission all independent sector care centrally for their whole system.

Pharma deal under fire

Multiple failings have been identified in how a leading cancer trust entered into a £20m research partnership with a large pharmaceutical company, and how bosses then reacted to concerns raised by staff.

A draft investigation report into the issues at the Christie Foundation Trust, obtained by HSJ, details a series of problems with the leadership of the research and innovation department, as well as failures by the board of directors.

The report, which was commissioned by the trust and is marked “confidential”, looked at multiple staff concerns around a research deal that was announced with pharma giant Roche and two of its subsidiaries.

It accuses managers, executives and the trust board of an “underlying systemic failure” to implement recommendations from two previous reports.