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Across England, health chiefs are leaving no stone unturned in their search for ways to reduce the elective backlog.

But one integrated care system has an asset that no other health economy can boast: the Nightingale.

While six of the seven temporary hospitals were closed at the end of the winter wave of covid-19 in April, the Devon ICS chipped in to keep the Exeter Nightingale alive.

HSJ understands all the NHS providers in Devon helped Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust secure the facility – situated on an industrial estate outside Exeter – with the support of NHS England, which had coughed up the construction costs at the outbreak of the pandemic.

NHSE also helpfully selected Devon ICS as an “accelerator site” for its elective recovery programme, meaning the ICS received several millions of pounds in extra funds to tackle the challenge ahead.

The facility will now provide extra capacity for diagnostics (as was already the case) and orthopaedics, ophthalmology and rheumatology.

Precisely why the Devon Nightingale survived the cull of field hospitals is not clear, and NHSE have never explained why the other sites were not allowed to play some role in the elective recovery.

The onus will now be on Devon ICS to prove the investment is worth it, and if the Nightingale’s work is successful, will that put the case for reopening of the other hospitals?

From home sec to health chair

A political big hitter of the past has been appointed joint chair of two large hospital trusts with a £2bn-plus turnover.

From October, former Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith will chair both Barts Health Trust and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, both in north-east London.

The extent of the closer working planned between Barts and BHR is not known but could involve more shared back-office functions and job shares.

The Barts trust, whose chief executive is Dame Alwen Williams, runs five hospitals, three of which have an emergency department, and had an income in 2019-20 of £1.7bn. BHR’s 2019-20 income was £641m.

By income the east London trusts will be the second largest with a shared chair in England, after Guy’s, King’s and Royal Brompton, whose joint income is more than £3bn.