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

Coronavirus update

In the words of one senior NHS manager at a large London trust this week: “Ventilators are going to be the next PPE.”

Last week, the NHS endured one round of severe distribution problems when procurement staff were left to plead on Twitter for more personal protective equipment.

During the next few weeks demand for ventilators — essential to helping covid-19 patients breathe — is going to rocket.

But several trust leaders have told HSJ they do not know if and when the ventilators they need will arrive.

While NHS Providers says it has received assurances the ventilators will arrive, the government has not publicly committed to dates.

PPE shortages caused huge problems for NHS staff. Ventilator shortages could mean worse for many patients.

Meanwhile, staff across London have been asked to volunteer to redeploy to the new hospital being built in the cavernous Excel exhibition centre in east London.

Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, administrators and porters across the capital are being asked to serve in the new Nightingale Hospital.

It is the “first major wave of surge capacity” for the NHS in London.

Some have likened this to robbing Peter to pay Paul, pinching key staff when they’re needed most at their home trusts. London’s spare critical care space is dwindling fast.

But others have said, with trusts diluting their staffing ratios for intensive care as it is, there will be workforce to fill the new hospital. And the new beds will absorb demand from the city’s trusts, giving them time to expand their own capacity.

The NHS in London isn’t alone in having a staffing rethink. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has streamlined operations to free up front-line staff that normally sit on its committees to focus on covid-19 guidance and other critical therapeutic areas.

This new direction comes at a time of major change for the organisation, which has recently appointed both a new chair and chief executive.