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

As part of the yearly emergency preparedness, resilience and response process, NHS England instructs NHS organisations to carry out a deep dive into a risk facing the health service. So, while the NHS continued to battle covid last year, the deep dive examined medical gases and oxygen systems. 

This year, NHSE has asked organisations to hone in on “local evacuation and shelter arrangements”, with one of the prompts being “recent work driven by the heightened risk associated with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete”. 

RAAC planks were used in constructing public sector buildings between the 1960s and 1980s. They are also now long past their life expectancy and considered unsafe. The Standing Committee of Structural Safety published a safety alert about the planks in 2019, after a school roof collapsed unexpectedly. 

The fact ageing estate has prompted a deep dive topic indicates the problem is playing on the centre’s mind. As NHS Providers interim chief executive Saffron Cordery points out, it “reaffirms the need to ensure trusts have access to the capital they need to replace RAAC planks [and] address other critical infrastructure risks which can compromise staff and patient safety”. 

Rethinking staff digs as cost of living soars

Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust has huge staffing shortages. These are being exacerbated by a “very competitive local housing market”, which will only get worse as cost of living continues to soar.

The trust has therefore decided to boost its staff accommodation. The CUH board acknowledged this directly-provided accommodation would only be made available for a relatively short period of time, so it’s more a sticking plaster than a long-term solution.

But, while this is clearly not a silver bullet to rising staff accommodation costs, it could buy the trust a bit more time to assess what the longer-term requirements could be.

For now, the famous teaching trust is seeking to return a former housing block on its main Addenbrooke’s site to residential use, providing around 60 rooms, while also looking to significantly extend its off-site portfolio in the surrounding area.

This week’s Ward Round also included more examples of what trusts are doing to support staff with their cost of living, with a consensus growing among NHS leaders that they have a moral duty to try and pull every lever possible to ease the pain.

Also on today

This week’s HSJ Health Check podcast delves deeper into why the way accident and emergency performance is measured needs a rethink. Prospective PM Liz Truss has said she will support doctors by “sort[ing] out” their pensions tax problems and “removing some of the central diktats and also having fewer layers of management”. And Medway FT has promoted its chief operating officer Jayne Black to chief executive.