The must read stories and debate from Tuesday

Southern Health boss steps down

Katrina Percy, the chief executive of Southern Health Foundation Trust, has been under huge pressure since the publication of the Mazars report last December, which highlighted failures at the trust to investigate and learn from patient deaths.

After weathering an eight-month storm of media scrutiny and daily calls for her resignation on social media, it finally happened: on Tuesday morning Ms Percy stood down.

Ms Percy said she had taken the decision because “the ongoing personal media attention” had made her role untenable.

Addressing the people who asked why she hadn’t resigned months earlier, Ms Percy said she had “firmly believed” it was her responsibility “to oversee the necessary improvements” at the trust, and to press on with “the ground-breaking work” it is doing as part of the South Hampshire vanguard.

Perhaps the trust had hoped the review by interim chair Tim Smart, which concluded in June that there was “no evidence of negligence or incompetency by any individual board member”, would draw a line under questions about her leadership?

If that was the hope, it was a forlorn one. In July, damaging headlines about Southern Health paying a firm considerably in excess of its initial contract value knocked the trust off course.

Ms Percy will be taking on a new role “providing strategic advice to local GP leaders” as they work on the vanguard.

The role doesn’t sound very different from the job she was supposed to proceed with after the June review, which found that Ms Percy had been “too operationally focused” as chief executive and recommended she should “shift her focus to delivery of the future strategy of the trust”.

As the day progressed, more information emerged to suggest this wasn’t a conventional resignation.

Southern Health confirmed that not only would Ms Percy continue to be employed by the trust, she would also continue to be paid the same salary – between £185,000 and £190,000 a year.

The decision of Southern Health to pay a CEO-level salary for a role with significantly less responsibility and accountability than trust chief executive appears highly questionable.

The whole episode looks like it can be filed under “classic NHS management fudge”.

One thing appears clear. With questions still being asked about the terms of Ms Percy’s employment, if Southern Health hoped its approach could finally draw a line under this troubled period in the organisation’s history, that belief appears very naive.

Hospitals’ training funding cut

Following last year’s comprehensive spending review, the impact of cuts that were applied to the Department of Health and arm’s length bodies has been trickling through.

The latest to emerge is a direct funding cut to NHS hospitals courtesy of Health Education England and the DH, which decided to cut the £2.4bn education and training tariff by 2 per cent in 2016-17 – that’s £48m.

The tariff is used by HEE to cover the costs of trusts for training staff including nurses, junior doctors and medical students. The cut to the tariff won’t mean numbers of trainees fall, but it will mean trusts will have to absorb the extra costs, which effectively means their pay bill just got considerably more expensive.

To prevent the £48m cut from “destabilising” some providers, HEE will offset it this financial year with a one-off payment to trusts. However, the calculation for next year’s tariff will start at the 2 per cent lower level, meaning a direct loss in funding for NHS providers in 2017-18 before any further reductions are calculated.

In its latest tariff guidance document, the DH said HEE was facing significant cost pressures due to a 4 per cent increase in the number of trainees in the system since 2014-15. “These pressures, coupled with other unavoidable cost pressures, such as the impact of tuition loans increasing from £3,000 to £9,000 for medical and dental students, results in HEE having to make some difficult choices to enable it to live within this settlement,” it said.