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

A new alliance

Last month, the Care Quality Commission warned NHS England/Improvement that Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust was the provider it was “most worried about” amid emerging details of what looks like a maternity scandal.

The watchdog implored NHSE/I to come up with a long-term solution to SATH’s troubles, with previous changes having failed to make an impact at a trust, which has overhauled its entire executive team during the last two years. 

The latest development in a suite of last-ditch packages, announced by NHSE/I, was the buddying of the trust with University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust.

This pairing may come as a surprise to some readers who might have believed Royal Wolverhampton Trust or University Hospitals of North Midlands Trust as the more appropriate candidates for the arrangement given both trusts share significantly more activity with SATH than UHB.

UHB is also still going through the reconfiguring of its pathways after merging with Heart of England FT.

Alongside the new arrangement it was announced that SATH’s chair Ben Reid had resigned. He will be replaced by UHB non-executive director Catriona McMahon.

NHSE/I will be hoping these drastic changes show some visible improvement so they do not have to consider “special administration”. This was floated by the CQC, but is - in effect - the nuclear option.

IT woes in the East End

The last five months has seen an unprecedented rate of digital transformations across the NHS, but staff continue to battle with unreliable computer systems.

Healthcare leaders in east London are in the process of transforming outpatient services in line with NHS long-term plan targets, but they are growing frustrated with NHS Digital’s national e-referral system which they say is hampering their plans.

The ERS doesn’t seamlessly integrate with Barts Health Trust’s electronic patient record, forcing clinicians to manually copy information from one system to another.

The challenges have meant patients with serious conditions could be waiting weeks for appointments and tests, when they should be seen in days.

During the last 20 months, four letters have been sent from Barts Health and Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group calling for rapid change, but it appears little progress has been made.

The east London chiefs have now said fixing the system is critical to ensure patients avoid ending up in hospital unnecessarily during the pandemic, especially with talk of a second wave of covid-19 this winter.