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

When The Saj visited the health and social care select committee, it wasn’t so much a case of “jam tomorrow” as “plans tomorrow”, as the health and social care secretary fended off criticism about the lack of clarity around funding for Health Education England and how ministers will address the NHS’ workforce crisis.

Sajid Javid faced strong criticism from committee chair Jeremy Hunt for the government’s failure to publish HEE’s budget in the spending review last week and the lack of a published plan on how ministers want to address the NHS’ workforce crisis.

Mr Javid said he could not yet give the details on a workforce plan, as “internal estimates” needed “fine tuning”. But he promised not one, but two plans which would address the issue.

An elective delivery plan, which will set out the elective workforce needs both short and longer term, will be published in the coming weeks, while a 15-year-plan to set up a strategic framework for the long-term workforce needed across health and social care will “hopefully” arrive in the spring.

The government has now been stalling on setting out a proper workforce strategy for over four years, in which time job vacancies have grown to such a point that the workforce crisis has overtaken the NHS’ wretched finances to become its biggest concern.

So, much is riding on the government’s 15-year-plan – it really needs to be worth the wait… 

‘A climate of fear’

Speaking up, listening up and following up are essential to saving lives – that was the message from Dr Henrietta Hughes, now departed National Guardian for the NHS, only a few months ago.

Her advice to managers was that, during the uncertainty of covid-19 and beyond, healthcare workers must continue to be encouraged to speak up, to protect patients and each other. She warned they must be listened to.

Yet an atmosphere facing whistleblowing medics at one of the country’s largest acute trusts, University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, as reported by HSJ yesterday, appears to fly in the face of such sentiments.

FTSU guardian Professor Julian Bion, a retired intensive care doctor, opened a can of worms at UHB’s latest board meeting, warning that those reporting bullying concerns, some of which had spiralled over several years, were facing a “climate of fear”.

While recognising the pressure UHB has been under, especially with its higher cohort of covid-19 patients, he criticised delays to tackling long-standing “dysfunctional behaviours” and warned that dozens of people reporting concerns fear detriment.

Meanwhile, trust chiefs stressed the sheer size of its 22,000 staff compared with 41 raising concerns.