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

The planning guidance

A crack team of HSJ correspondents spent Thursday afternoon deconstructing this year’s NHS planning guidance so you can jump straight to the interesting bits:

Let us know what we missed, too.

Questions to answer

Why did three NHS employees die suddenly in 11 days? That is the tragic question the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, and its regulators, must answer.

The staff who died were ambulance dispatcher Luke Wright, aged 24, and paramedics Christopher Gill, from Welwyn Garden City, and Richard Grimes, from Luton.

The reasons for their deaths are not yet officially known. The trust has, however, launched an “independent investigation” into the “underlying factors associated with” the sudden deaths.

The investigation is a vital step in trying to understand the circumstances surrounding the tragic deaths. It may conclude the deaths were entirely unconnected to the employees’ working environment. At this stage, while there is considerable, and some informed, speculation, there is yet to be an official verdict.

But the trust’s refusal to disclose who is carrying out the investigation or to commit to making the full report public rings alarm bells.

Such levels of secrecy will inevitably raise suspicions about the process and will only add weight to the existing concerns raised by whistleblower Paul Fitzgerald to HSJ that the trust “is just paying lip-service to investigating the problems”.

Mr Fitzgerald has shown great courage in raising his concerns to the trust and now through HSJ.

The trust must now match his candour and ensure this crucial investigation is carried out in a transparent manner. It must also engage fully with its staff to ensure everything is done to understand what went wrong and if there was anything which could be done differently to save lives in the future.