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

Coronavirus update

With coronavirus dominating the NHS’ planning, it was probably inevitable some of the normal processes and procedures would go out the window.

Board meetings seem to be one of the first areas where adjustments have been made. As HSJ has reported, some trusts and clinical commissioning groups are holding them without the public present, others are doing them remotely, and some have cancelled or postponed imminent meetings.

The reasoning was partly the risk of coronavirus transmission — although such meetings are rarely packed out — but also that preparing extensive papers placed additional strain on executives who are trying to lead their organisation’s response to the current crisis.

Meanwhile, last week payment by results was binned, this week NHS England took, in one fell swoop, the power to purchase and organise healthcare around England.

Clinical commissioning groups are still on the pitch, but with tariff negotiation out the window, much more business conducted directly from centre to providers during the crisis, few are arguing that the local purchasing function is necessary right now.

Of the CCG role, one reader comments: “Wow. Well they won’t get the powers back now.”

Another casualty is the national data opt out policy, an initiative designed to ensure patient data is not shared for commercial, planning or research purposes if requested by the patient.

Compliance with the opt out was supposed to be achieved by the NHS before 31 March. But NHSX and NHS Digital have announced the deadline will be extended for six months until September to help free up staff time for covid-19 work.

It’s also been an incredibly challenging two weeks for NHS procurement staff. They’ve been contending with a surge in demand for personal protective equipment, global product shortages and what they’ve told HSJ is an inadequate and unpredictable response from the government.

Things got so bad at some trusts on Friday and over the weekend that procurement chiefs took to social media to appeal for help. One south London trust asked for soap for its nurses and a trade body for procurement staff asked DIY shops for goggles.

The government has announced new measures to combat such “distribution” issues, such as a 24-hour hotline for ordering PPE. Trusts might even see army personnel unloading their delivery trucks from this week.