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

Quality assessment who?

There is broad agreement that moving some of Public Health England’s screening programme work to NHS England is a good idea.

One of the recommendations of Sir Mike Richards’ report, published on Wednesday morning, is the quality assurance part of PHE should move to NHSE, along with the direct responsibility for commissioning these vital services.

Sir Mike was careful to stress the quality assessment teams – who keep an eye on standards – should be ringfenced if (when, really) they get moved.

It is fair to say their work is currently not well known. The actual work of routine screening is usually carried out by trusts themselves, and, as with everything done by trusts in the NHS, there is some variation. Often, a lot of it.

One of Sir Mike’s recommendations is the quality assessment teams’ work be shared with the Care Quality Commission.

This is another of those cases where an observer finds themselves saying, “they don’t already do that?” The care quality regulator is not routinely informed about the results of inspections to services providing a service that routinely saves lives? How effective is the follow-up from these teams in driving up standards?

If the move helps with the muddled accountability of these services, then it can only help.

Dropping hints

Health Education England has spent time and money surveying its stakeholders to allow it to issue a not so subtle declaration that it should remain an independent body.

The education and training quango has come under increasing pressure from NHS England and Improvement, with the latter’s chair leading on the “NHS People Plan”, and NHSE’s recent legislation proposals alluding to the fact the government should review workforce policy decision making.

HEE’s demise as an independent body has been mooted for a long time. It is blamed for failing to adequately respond to the workforce crisis.

But scrapping HEE would still be a highly questionable move – and its “stakeholders” seem to agree. The workforce crisis of today has its roots in the plundering of health authority education budgets when they were part of the NHS system.

So moving the £5bn pot back to NHS control doesn’t quite make sense, when arguably all that’s needed is better leadership and delivery at HEE, and for its independence to be respected by other national agencies (who just might be quite keen to control all this for themselves).