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

“Earnd” – the Greensill-owned app that offered NHS staff free access to its salary draw-down services during the pandemic – might be gone, but this is by no means the end of salary lending in the NHS.

Earlier this year, quite soon after the collapse of “Earnd”, NHS England tendered for companies which could provide a “fair and ethical approach” to financial management. HSJ understands the shortlist will be a selection of NHSE-approved companies that trusts can go into business with if they wish to.

The premise is fairly simple; staff can usually borrow no more than 50 per cent of their monthly salary and pay this back plus interest at the end of the month, with the money loaned by the financial services company (who will profit).

HSJ readers have not held back when it comes to this bit; “This is making money off the back of misery and poverty, whichever way you paint it.” Surely there are better ways to support staff going through tough financial times than helping them on to the slippery slope of salary draw-downs?

Other HR professionals spoken to have argued there are better ways of doing things, pointing towards alternatives such as salary sacrifice to buy specific items, such as white goods, needed by the staff member.

And of course, this story speaks more widely to the issue of NHS pay – if we are in a situation where the use of salary draw-down apps is on the rise, perhaps something has gone very wrong indeed?

Procuring talent

The long-heralded overhaul of national public health bodies in England is coming to a head. It was the summer of 2020 when the government abruptly declared it was closing Public Health England and forming a new body.

This was a derisory way to treat the staff of PHE in the midst of a pandemic and widely seen as scapegoating by the government, disguising its own failings by blaming PHE.

Since then, the ambitions for the new public health agency have crystallised. The health promotion component of PHE that dealt with tackling obesity and reducing smoking will be subsumed by an office in the Department of Health and Social Care. The health protection part, that dealt with outbreaks of infectious diseases among other things, will now be ensconced in the UK Health Security Agency.

The UKHSA will be formed out of the remnants of PHE and NHS Test and Trace, will have around 11,500 employees and a budget of £15bn, including a £2bn for procurement.

It is now looking for two commercial directors to help run it. They will be employed through the Government Commercial Organisation which was set up in 2016 to enhance the capabilities of senior commercial specialists in government departments.

This will surely be welcomed as procurement has been one of the most controversial aspects of covid pandemic so far, in particular how it relates to Test and Trace, with allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest in how contracts were awarded.