HSJ’s round-up of Monday’s must read stories

Slap on the wrist for the government

Though far from a knock-out blow, the UK Statistics Authority has probably delivered a narrow points victory for critics of the government’s “misleading” claims around increases to NHS spending.

In response to complaints about ministers’ repeated claims to have increased NHS expenditure by £10bn, the UKSA will ask officials to “ensure clarity” when reporting the numbers.

The £10bn figure relates to the NHS England budget, and refers to a six year period from 2014-15. Overall health spending will only increase by £6bn in that period, due to other budgets, such as public health, being cut.

Using 2015-16 as the baseline year for a five-year period, as was the case in the Conservative manifesto and the Five Year Forward View, overall health spending will increase by just £4.5bn. This is the figure that most observers believe is the correct one to use.

The UKSA said in a letter published on Monday: “While the Department of Health has been open when asked about the nature of the estimated real terms increases in health spending and its split between NHS England and the department’s overall budget, the total health spending figures are much less frequently referred to by government and may be less readily accessible…

“I will be asking that HM Treasury investigate whether in future they can present estimates for NHS England and total health spending separately.

“I will also explore with officials producing these figures other ways in which they might ensure clarity around sources, time periods and what is being measured, and in what context, when reporting on the level of increase in real budget allocations to NHS England.”

In official watchdog speak, this equates to a slight slap on the wrists, so it will be interesting to see how Philip Hammond and Theresa May refer to the NHS spending increases in future – perhaps starting with the autumn statement on Wednesday.

STP update

Could providers and commissioners in an STP share offices one day? According to the Black Country Partnership STP they could. The latest West Midlands plan to be published said that it is looking into what non-clinical support functions its providers and CCGs could share in the next few years.

Services included on the list of functions the NHS bodies could share include payroll, HR, call centres, procurement and legal services.

There is one big hurdle to overcome, however – the footprint’s CCGs have already signed contracts with their respective CSUs. So, any attempt to cancel or change these contracts could result in financial pain for the CCGs.

The STP has also thought up a way of dealing with expensive PFIs – pay them off. The STP says that it is looking in to whether their share of sustainability and transformation funding could be used to buy out their trust’s PFI and LIFT deals.

The Black Country STP patch is also home to some heavy-hitting vanguard models, like the Modality and Dudley MCPs. But it looks like the scene is set to get even more crowded with the implementation of yet another new care model in Wolverhampton. Already housing a PACS and a primary care home model, Wolverhampton CCG might also procure an MCP in 2017-18.