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

Empty seat

The merger between NHS England and NHS Improvement has prompted plenty of senior leadership changes already, but still the process rumbled on, even at the highest levels.

In addition to the debacle over the NHSI chief executive and NHSE deputy posts, the role of chief commercial officer has not yet been filled after a first attempt to recruit. A spokesman for the regulators told HSJ the appointment had been delayed due to the role being redesigned. 

The commercial officer portfolio as previously described includes overseeing the work of the procurement and estates teams within NHS Improvement and NHS England, as well as the regulators’ commercial functions.

HSJ understands that, following the role redesign, whoever takes on the job will also be responsible for specialised commissioning (whether all or part of this portfolio, we are not yet totally sure), commercial aspects of medicines, and innovation and life sciences.

The second recruitment process for the role will go ahead once “approvals have been given”, according to a briefing note sent to staff.

Meanwhile, an interim appointment will be made, with a further announcement about this expected later this month.

War of words

Last year, King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust found itself being told to shell out £1m (and on the receiving end of some unenviable publicity), after an employment tribunal decided an IT manager had been unfairly dismissed and racially discriminated against.

Months later, the case is still haunting the board. Unite branch secretary Frank Wood has been in heated correspondence with both the new chair and Peter Herring, the then interim chief executive, about the trust’s commitment to equality and other matters.

A statement from Mr Wood, sent to Unite members, called for the exit of the director of workforce Dawn Brodrick. He claimed she had not done enough to promote equality of opportunity.

This led to an email from Mr Herring warning him against “harassment”, adding the trust could seek legal advice. Mr Wood had previously raised concerns about a “hostile climate” to black, Asian, minority and ethnic staff with incoming chair Sir Hugh Taylor.

Mr Wood’s other concerns included the trust’s poor performance on questions around staff health and wellbeing in the national staff survey.

The trust is adamant it is working hard on equality with a multiplicity of initiatives. It also points out there are non-acute trusts which score worse on the staff survey around health and wellbeing.

King’s, which also has a big financial headache at the moment, could doubtless do without this hassle, especially as it insists it is unfounded. Mr Wood, it would seem, feels otherwise.

The saving grace may be the arrival of Clive Kay, the new chief executive who took up his post at the start of the month. He has a chance to listen to all sides and turn the temperature down – and rebuild relationships after a difficult few months.