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

The “public perception” of Test and Trace is “incredibly negative” and that has been “difficult” for the team in question to take, the new head of NHS Digital has said.

Simon Bolton tells us in his first interview with HSJ: “I see some parallels at the moment with primary care. They’re under enormous pressure from the public, but everyone I’m talking to is working harder than ever.

“They’re doing a phenomenal job under very difficult circumstances, but the public perception doesn’t always recognise that.”

Mr Bolton also says the way the NHS collects and uses data is “not logical”, with ongoing work by trusts, integrated care systems and national bodies “overlapping considerably”.

His priorities include making the role of the centre, and the way in which it can support trusts and ICSs, made clearer – as well as putting an end to “duplication” and the NHS creating “two solutions to the same problem”.

He adds: “We need to work with ICSs and providers to make sure we’re aligned and designing the right solutions, and then have conversations about who does what.

“At the moment we overlap considerably. From speaking to chief information officers at trusts I think some see the centre – particularly NHSD and NHSX – as maybe arrogant, maybe quite detached, and the reality is we’re here to serve, support and achieve the same outcomes.”

Providers often have “no idea” what the data they spend “time and effort to provide” to the centre is used for, he says. Read Nick Carding’s full interview here.

Ownership of care

An “industrial scale” expansion of patient initiated follow-ups is among the “game-changers” national leaders are considering to address the elective backlog.

Sir Jim Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust, said that “two or three access methods” are being considered to give the public greater ownership over their care.

This would include giving patients the choice over whether a follow-up is necessary. Sir Jim, NHS England’s elective recovery adviser, said many reviews in outpatients are “pointless”.

He told at a webinar hosted by The Health Foundation that the NHS risks a “retirement rush” if there are no “game changers” in how electives are handled, and staff are simply told to work harder.

Last year NHSE encouraged trusts to adopt a patient initiated follow-up system but the use of this is not widespread. It seems NHSE want to give this another push ahead of winter.