The must read stories from Thursday

Obesity plan leaves bad taste

The government’s childhood obesity plan, launched on Thursday, has been branded a disappointing missed opportunity by senior public health figures after it failed to take action on marketing and advertising of junk food and paid little attention to the role of local authorities – who are responsible for public health budgets. 

Jeremy Hunt had promised the long-awaited plan would be “game changing”. However, the final document, which was originally supposed to be a strategy, is only 13 pages long, leading to accusations it has been watered down.

Neither Mr Hunt nor any other health minister was involved in the public launch of the strategy.

NHS England keeping watch

NHS England’s national mental health director has sent out a clear message to the sector – if new funding pledged to improve services does not reach the front line then we will take action.

Claire Murdoch told HSJ any commissioners or providers not investing in services as set out by the national body’s mental health plan or hitting key targets will be offered help by NHS England. The plan outlined how £3.97bn of additional investment in mental health services by 2020-21 will be spent.

Former Mental Health Network chief executive Stephen Dalton said making sure the cash reaches the front lines will be the “acid test” for the plan and called for a transparent, publicly visible governance process to track the funding.

While Ms Murdoch set out her intention to publish how much CCGs are investing in mental health and NHS England will monitor it to make sure cash reaches the front line, it is still not clear where all the new investment is coming from.

She did make it clear that NHS England’s interventions will be aimed at supporting commissioners to implement the new plan rather than being “punitive”.

The data to be included in the new mental health dashboard is yet to be finalised, but Ms Murdoch pledged to have it published next month and said it will include CCG spending on mental health and performance indicators.

But it might take a bit longer before we can tell if NHS England is passing the “acid test”.

Act of charity

Earlier this month, HSJ revealed how NHS Improvement was looking to FTSE 100 companies to source new non-executive directors to sit on NHS trust boards, as part of its efforts to support top table leadership.

On hsj.co.uk, Paul Devlin argues that the regulator would benefit from looking to the third sector as part of its drive for a more collaborative leadership and to improve diversity on boards.

He writes: “The more diverse a board, the more likely it carries an understanding of the impact of its decisions on the whole of the communities they serve.”