The must read stories and debate in the NHS

No magic moments

HSJ revealed last Friday that a number NHS chief executives were led in a chant of “we can do this!” at a nationally convened meeting about the need to improve A&E performance

Several sources who went to the meeting told us that during a session for leaders from the Midlands and East region, a crowd of acute trust chief executives and CCG accountable officers were led in the morale-boosting session by NHS England regional director Paul Watson.

The story generated a lot comments below the line – mostly in disbelief – while Andy Cowper ruled that the NHS has reached “peak David Brent”.

Mr Watson has responded to HSJ readers. He said: “If anyone found my session on Monday inappropriate in any way then I can only apologise – it was meant as light relief rather than brainwashing.”

In another comment, he wrote: “Leading a health system in 2017 is one of the toughest jobs in the country. However, we are all volunteers and well compensated by the taxpayer – our roles provide a unique privilege and opportunity to do good.

“So, as I said at Monday’s event, this can be done. If that seems cheesy or patronising then so be it, but it does have the merit of being true.”

Meanwhile, NHS Providers chair Gill Morgan has defended trust chief executives – in the wake of two resigning under pressure over poor A&E performance – in a comment piece on

She says “removing chief executives to encourage performance stretch in pursuit of an over ambitious goal” hasn’t worked in the past “and won’t work now”.

Trust leaders “are not magicians – they can’t deliver the impossible. There is little point in setting trusts an impossible task and then removing their senior leaders when they inevitably fall short.”

PFI promise

A Labour government would “bring” private finance initiative contracts “back in house”, the shadow chancellor has said.

At the Labour party conference on Monday, John McDonnell also proposed that companies based in tax havens would be stopped from holding shares in PFI schemes.

He reiterated that “Labour will sign no new PFI deals… I can tell you today that when we go into government we’ll bring these contracts and staff back in house… We’re bringing them back.”

Labour has so far given little detail on the proposal. The BBC reported party sources saying it would initially mean reviewing each contract.

Over the last year, NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackey has championed efforts to combat high ongoing PFI costs, saying some schemes have “absolutely ridiculous” profit margins.