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

England’s month-long national lockdown is nearly over. With the government preparing for the next phase and more local tiers of restriction, the question across Westminster and Whitehall is: has it worked?

The answer, inevitably, is: it’s too soon to tell.

Hospital statistics are encouraging across much of the country though not all. Covid admissions in the North West have fallen from a second-wave peak of 2,159 in the seven days to 29 October while they have been falling for falling for several days in the North East and Yorkshire. Other regions have seen their admissions decline for one or two days.

The number of people in hospital beds with covid has been falling for five days in both the North West and North East and Yorkshire while the North West has been reporting a sustained decline in the number of patients in beds requiring mechanical ventilation, the most severe cases. In the North East and Yorkshire, the number of patients in beds with mechanical ventilation has also fallen, for two days in a row.

However, hospital statistics in London and the South East are not looking as good. Admissions are rising in the capital and surrounding region. So too the number of patients in hospital with covid. And alarmingly, in London the number of patients needing mechanical ventilation is rising steeply.

One to watch

Mergers between NHS providers and clinical commissioning groups have become increasingly commonplace in the last few years.

However, there is something different about the latest proposed merger – this time between Yeovil and Somerset foundation trusts.

This merger would create England’s first provider of primary, community, mental health and acute care services, which – in the words of local chiefs – offers unique integration opportunities.

Jonathan Higman, chief executive of Yeovil FT, told HSJ a merged organisation with primary care services would offer benefits both in workforce and the out-of-hospital management of patients with complex comorbidities.

Through its vanguard work on primary and acute care systems, Yeovil has signed up 12 GP practices – while Somerset FT hosts four.

This means the new provider would oversee a small – but significant – chunk of Somerset’s primary care services, and offer far more organisational integration than any other trust in the NHS.

It will be one to watch.