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

Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye

Andrew Cash, Paula ClarkDavid Dalton, Julie Moore and Andrew Morris – to this fast-growing list of hugely experienced hospital chief executives stepping down we can now add Tony Spotswood.

While the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals Foundation Trust’s size pales in comparison to some of the institutions led by the above notable names (its income is around £300m), remaining in charge for 19 years is no mean feat.

Under Mr Spotswood’s leadership, the trust has been a steady player in Dorset’s evolving NHS.

In the last decade, it has played an important role in the development of the county’s collaborative approach to healthcare, which has yielded an integrated care system seen nationally as one of the most advanced health economies.

More recently, the trust has enjoyed some of the best results across the country in the annual NHS Staff Survey.

When he looks back at his time at the trust, Mr Spotswood will perhaps be disappointed with the length of time it has taken to deliver the long-planned merger with Poole Hospital FT.

This project will end up having taken nearly a decade to complete.

Overall, his departure is another blow for a health service which needs to hang on to skilled and experienced leaders.

Error messages

The NHS cancer screening programmes in England are long-established. The breast and cervical screening campaigns have been running since the 1980s. Unfortunately, so have the IT systems they rely on.

An internal Public Health England report, recently obtained by HSJ, discovered there had been “a lack of a strategic approach to the replacement and development of IT underlying screening programmes”.

The IT systems need replacing “to allow for better functionality and performance”, the report continued. 

The complexity and advanced age of “legacy systems” supporting the breast screening programme was one of three underlying causes of the national scandal uncovered earlier this year – it was revealed up to 450,000 women had not received their final breast screening test.

PHE is not alone in worrying about the state of screening’s IT infrastructure. The National Audit Office is investigating several screening programmes because it’s worried the problems affecting breast screening will apply to the others too.

Meanwhile, the NHS last month charged Sir Mike Richards, the former national cancer director, with reviewing cancer screening, with a view to overhauling the programmes. IT systems are firmly in his remit.

Professor Sir Mike will report next summer. With more than 30 years of unplanned IT development to sort out, it seems likely his recommendations will be extensive. And expensive.