The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.
The prefix “NHS” attached to the NHS Test and Trace programme could be deemed a mite misleading. It suggests it is a public body akin to NHS England or NHS Improvement or NHS Digital, which it is not. It is very much an agency under direct control of the Department of Health and Social Care.
But how much longer that will last remains unclear. The question of whether it can take on a life of its own and move out from the DHSC’s long shadow is a live one.
Last week the chancellor told us NHSTT has a budget of £10bn, which the eagled eyed on Twitter pointed out dwarfs the £0.4bn dished out to Public Health England.
This week we learnt NHSTT is moving towards a slightly more permanent footing. It is trying to hire a new chief executive and it wants to replace its outgoing senior management team, seconded or brought in on temporary contracts, with a new roster of executives on two-year terms.
And moreover, we revealed the inevitable management consultants of McKinsey are at work on the programme. Not, it should be noted, to review the testing and tracing programmes themselves but to figure out what kind of organisation NHSTT should end up being.
They are considering whether it should stay under DHSC, have more operational independence, or be merged into another DHSC arms-length body, such as PHE. We could be in the process of witnessing a new acronym bloom in the garden of NHS executive bodies.
Speaking out on lip service
There are many issues to which the government and national bodies just pay lip service. The latest report by Learning Disability Mortality Review Programme (LeDer), run by Bristol University, suggests national attitudes to its previous report have been exactly this – lip service.
In its fourth annual report, authors said the government’s and national bodies’ responses to previous recommendations have been “insufficient”. Looking at the actions taken in response to previous reports, this appears to be a fair judgement. The DHSC, for example, only officially responded to the 2018-19 LeDer review in February this year.
The gap in health for those with learning disabilities has been an issue long talked about but policy makers have yet to make an impact on it. When reports like LeDer reveal that people with a learning disability are four times more likely to die from a treatable condition it is a wonder how these figures have not galvanised more change.
Is this down to a disregard by national bodies for learning disabilities? Or is it down to the issue being constantly put in the “too hard to fix” box?