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

NHS England silent on STP criticism

The criticism around STPs continues – not for what is in the plans, but for NHS England’s handling of the programme.

Sutton Council is the third local authority to ignore the national commissioner’s request that the plans submitted on 21 October should not be published until it and NHS Improvement say so. Ruth Dombey, the council’s leader, said: “We are concerned that the NHS centrally has not allowed the publication of our STP and that this is raising worries about its content and the process around its development.”

(Easy to miss in the NHS vs councils ding-dong: the south west London plan says the number of acute hospitals in the patch will be cut from five to four).

Ms Dombey’s comments came on the same day HSJ published an interview with Mark Rogers – chief executive of Birmingham City Council (which on Tuesday was the first to put out its STP) and lead of Birmingham and Solihull STP.

He hit out at NHSE and NHSI for their “sort out the NHS first” approach to the STP programme, and singled out Simon Stevens and Jim Mackey for saying plans should focus on the financial gap in the health service, rather than that across both health and care.

NHS England has yet to address the criticism from councils that has come its way.

The silence is characteristic of NHS England’s communications strategy on the STPs so far, and Healthwatch is the latest organisation to call it out for poor public engagement.

Healthwatch England’s interim chair Jane Mordue warns in an article on hsj.co.uk that the “strong sense of fear” among policymakers that proposals will face an “army of activists” means public involvement could be put off until the last moment.

She urged STP leads to not retreat from “their duty to talk with the public”, warning that the lack of proper consultation risks making changes “needlessly painful” and communities “feeling betrayed”.

Public perception that STPs are “secret plans” to close their favourite hospitals has gained ground in recent months – not least because of a lack of challenge from NHS leaders. If people are going to be convinced that STPs are going to help save the NHS rather than undermine it, NHS England needs to start telling its side of the story.

Addenbrooke’s must take back control of IT contract

News that Addenbrooke’s could ditch the main IT provider of its high profile eHospital programme, which HSJ understands is making a significant contribution to its large deficit, raises significant questions about NHS IT procurement.

The prestigious teaching trust has invited bids for a range of “outsourced commodity IT services” valued at £140m – despite Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s contract of the same value and for similar services not being due to expire until after 2020.

The trust says it is “market testing” to secure value for money and that the provider is delivering on its contractual obligations.

This may well all be true, but you don’t put out a tender notice inviting other bids, thus at the very least undermining your “strategic and valued partner”, if everything is going great guns.

Multiple sources told HSJ the costs for the contract, which begun in 2013, were spiralling.

With the trust’s finances already being significantly stretched, wrestling the contract back under control is non-negotiable for the trust’s management.

Failure to do so could result in (another) visit to Commons public accounts committee for the trust’s management, which recently faced the committee in the wake of the UnitingCare contracting fiasco.