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Sir Mike’s ‘unfinished business’

More trusts may face prosecution under the CQC’s powers, Professor Sir Mike Richards confirmed in his exit interview with HSJ.

Sir Mike, who retires from his role as chief inspector of hospitals this week, said the recent successful prosecution of Southern Health should act as a “deterrent” for other trusts and the regulator was already considering starting legal proceeding against an unspecified number of trusts.

Although he was clear the Southern prosecution could not have proceeded more quickly due to the volume of evidence that needed to be collected, it is apparent that, as with Southern, the CQC does not intend to tolerate trusts that have ignored its warnings to the serious detriment of patient safety.

He also used the interview to signal that the NHS must try harder with cancer waiting times. He said the 62 day treatment target “ought” to be possible. The NHS has failed to meet the target for over three years. Revealing that he was taking up a trustee position at Cancer Research UK, he admitted that driving up cancer outcomes remained “unfinished business” for him.

Sir Mike also used the interview to warn about letting waiting times slip: “Why did they choose 18 weeks? Because it used to be 18 months, it is as simple as that.” Similarly, despite some CCGs drawing up plans to restrict access to elective treatment that they believe is clinically justified, he was firm that he “would never support restricting access to evidence based care”.

Funding was also on his radar. While recognising that austerity cannot “go on indefinitely”, he said the NHS must use any new money “wisely” by investing in system transformation that would take the pressure off patient flow between hospitals and social care.

Laying foundations

Sir Mike also said that as NHS chief executives face more demands on their time, such as managing multiple hospitals or leading on new care models, the service needs to boost its leadership “capability and capacity”, despite the presence of “very capable” leaders around the country.

The leaders of South Warwickshire Foundation Trust and Wye Valley Trust will be among the busy ones, as they have agreed to become a “foundation group”.

HSJ first reported the intention of the trusts to form a hospital chain last November, but board papers reveal the chain, now renamed a foundation group, will be structured around a new joint committee with representatives from both trusts.

The committee will focus on transforming both trusts into ACOs, starting with closer integration with primary and community care providers.

Glen Burley, the chief exec of both trusts since November, said: “The foundation group model that we are proposing retains the identity of separate organisations and supports each to move to a model of accountable care with local partners.”