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

New guidance from NHS England has stated that staff on prolonged sick leave due to long covid could be dismissed if ‘redeployment is not an option’ and they are unable to fulfil their contract.

The advice follows the temporary, non-contractual guidance issued in response to the pandemic during its early days.

The government’s advice aimed to provide a temporary enhancement of covid sick pay and meant that staff who were absent with covid would remain on full pay, and therefore did not feel pressured to return.

However, NHSE’s guidance warned that “while this provision is still available, it is possible that it may change”.

The move has been seen as an inevitable step as the guidance was brought in as an emergency measure, while some employers may have been holding off dismissing staff with long covid or covid-related absences due to guidelines in place.

Long covid is a term usually used to describe covid symptoms that continue to develop four weeks post-diagnosis.

ICB about-turn

Councillors could be joining NHS integrated care boards after all, following the government’s instruction that NHS England must change draft guidance to allow them to be members – although it remains unclear if they will be permitted to chair the new organisations.

NHSE had issued a draft constitution for ICBs which listed among those “disqualified” from sitting on it “a member of parliament, or member of the London Assembly” and “a member of a local authority in England and Wales”.

Job adverts for ICB chair designates, nearly all of whom were appointed last year, stated: “Elected officials including MPs and members of councils are excluded from the NHS ICB chair role.”

Objections were raised in the Lords last month, led by Labour peer Philip Hunt, to the exclusion of councillors, and to the fact NHSE had made the decision and gone ahead with appointments before the Health and Care Bill had been passed by Parliament.

Also on today

In news, James Sumner is appointed chief executive of the second largest trust in the North West, and in comment, Richard Sloggett says the integration white paper marks a significant attempt to start to push the policy pendulum back towards local places.