The must read stories and talking points from Tuesday

The Simon and Bruce show

NHS England’s chief executive and medical director appeared at the Commons health committee on Tuesday afternoon. Here are the main things we learned from Simon Stevens and Sir Bruce Keogh’s questioning by MPs:

  • Mr Stevens reiterated his plea for more funding in the shape of a capital infrastructure fund. Mr Stevens said: “My personal point of view is that it will be the ideal moment to consider an upgrade in NHS infrastructure.”
  • Sir Bruce gave an extensive view on concerns about junior doctors’ morale and conditions. He said of the contract row which has dominated the past year, and which has been linked to his work leading improvement in weekend service standards: “Things became very complicated when contract negotiations were linked to weekend mortality.” This increased discontent among junior doctors, he said. Listing concerns about training programmes and rotas, Sir Bruce said: “Many of the issues raised… are just about decency, and how a decent organisation treats its staff.”
  • NHS England with other national bodies will “informally rank” all sustainability and transformation plans. Mr Stevens told the committee that October would now mark the deadline for finishing plans, and the beginning of implementation. He said that while some areas have a “well articulated view of how to implement it and are waiting to fire the starting gun in October” others will “have a further path to tread”. He maintained that “the majority of the country will have well designed plans that we will be able to back come October”.
  • The NHS England chief executive said it was “too early to say” what impact Brexit would have on the NHS, but said “there was no reason” the government should not be able to give reassurance that the NH will be able to retain EU staff. He also said there was a “strong case to continue to be members” of the European Medicines Agency.
  • On mental health, Mr Stevens said it would “not be mission accomplished by 2020” and that while the national implementation plan released today would see concrete improvements in the care provided, there will still be two children out of every three not receiving timely treatment.

Big promises for mental health

The mental health sector received a welcome boost on Tuesday with NHS England’s pledge to invest nearly £4bn into hiring more staff, integrating physical and mental health services and rolling out new models of care.

A new report spells out how NHS England will implement the recommendations set out in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, through an investment package of £3.97bn over the next five years.

Headline figures included:

The report has been welcomed across the sector, setting out the expectations on the NHS and its partners to bring about the Mental Health Taskforce’s recommendations by 2020-21.

While some of the financial pledges – such as an extra £1.4bn for children and young people’s mental health with £150m for eating disorders – were already well publicised, the report is the first time NHS England has set out the total amount it will invest to achieve the mental health forward view.

Much of the cash will be used to train new staff, create new care pathways and bring about closer integration of services.

The important question, in the current climate of uncertainty around Brexit and a new prime minister, is whether all the proposed investment will arrive when it has been promised.