The must read stories and talking points from Thursday

Hospital dragged over the coals

Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust, which has been in special measures since 2013, was told by regulators on Thursday if it does not form a “long term partnership” with Ipswich Hospital Trust it risks being put in the failure regime.

At worst the controversial process could result in the trust’s liquidation, as when it was first used to address finance and quality issues at South London Healthcare in 2012. That trust was dissolved in October 2013.

The CQC and NHS Improvement have said partnering the two trusts “is the only way of securing services for patients long into the future”.

A letter from chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards to the health secretary outlining the next steps for Colchester is damning about the lack of progress since 2013.

He wrote that the CQC has “consistently found poor and unsafe practices which place patients at risk of harm” and “there have not been enough signs of improvement for me to recommend a further extension to special measures”.

He said he did not have confidence in Colchester’s board to turn around the trust, so “I am currently minded to use CQC’s powers to direct the appointment of a trust special administrator… unless an immediate alternative solution can be instituted”.

The regulators have not set out details of the partnership apart from to say it would “see staff with clinical and leadership expertise work across both organisations”.

Criticism of the Pennine way

We already knew the leaders of Manchester City Council and Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust were not best pals, but a few eyebrows were still raised when Sir Richard Leese chose to publicly criticise the trust’s approach to transformation.

At a meeting of the health and wellbeing board this week, the council leader accused the former management of Pennine Acute of being too focused on “institutional preservation”.

The local authority is currently leading a review of hospital services in the city, and HSJ has previously highlighted the tensions over the future of North Manchester General Hospital.

In late February, it was suddenly announced that Pennine Acute’s chief executive, Dr Gillian Fairfield, was going on secondment to Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust.

This seemed a strange move at the time, but perhaps makes more sense now given the apparent power struggles going on.

Sir Richard found little sympathy among HSJ readers below the line, however, with several arguing that Dr Fairfield had a duty to prioritise her own organisation, and wondering how the council might react to similar challenges over its services and structure.

One warned Sir Richard he would need to “fundamentally alter the governing principles of NHS trusts and foundation trusts” in order to change their behaviour, while another said: “It’s called a market. The government created it and Sir Richard should remember that.”

Manchester is becoming an interesting test bed for NHS-council relations.