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Some things in the NHS are set in stone: executives are in charge of the operational side of an organisation while the non-executives contribute to strategy and vision and hold the executives to account through appropriate levels of challenge.

But that line seems to have become blurred at East of England Ambulance Service Trust. A “supportive governance review” found confused responsibilities, with NEDs finding it necessary “in some instances to cover the roles of executive directors.”

The review by KMPG – which also found some examples of board members acting in ways that were not aligned with the trust’s values – called for clarity over roles.

EEAST has had a turbulent few years, with churn in many senior positions and cultural issues which have drawn attention from the Care Quality Commission among others. At such times, it must be tempting for experienced NEDs to step into the breach and get more hands on than they normally would.

But, of course, that is not the solution, at least not for any length of time. NEDs need to step back and remember their role is to ensure there is a competent team of executives in place. Hopefully that is now the case at EEAST.

When to share

Sharing patient data to improve research should be a good thing, but unfortunately the NHS has a somewhat chequered history of doing this, with past failures to stick to the rules.

Seen through this lens, it is little wonder that some privacy campaigners are concerned about the data-sharing agreements signed by 12 English NHS trusts with AI firm Sensyne Health.

The model sounded promising initially. Trusts would send anonymised data to Sensyne, which would use the data to speed up the development of new medicines by pharmaceutical companies. In return, trusts would get shares in Sensyne and also any royalties from income generated by the data.

However, according to information obtained by HSJ through Freedom of Information, only a small amount of royalties have been received so far by the trusts.

And perhaps more damning is the fact that Sensyne’s financial collapse earlier this year which prompted its delisting from the London Stock Exchange means the trusts’ shares are now effectively worthless.

This has led to several of the 12 trusts – which have not yet sent data to Sensyne – to consider tearing up the agreement.

However, three trusts have confirmed they will continue the partnership regardless.

Also on today

This week’s Health Check podcast discusses the impending major reorganisation of the NHS this year, including within NHS England itself, and elsewhere on Julian Patterson listens in as Martin Plackard, head of strategic communications at NHS Blithering, answers some frequently asked questions about strategy and shares his top tips.