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

During the covid crisis, a lot of attention has been given to hospital admissions, but hospital discharge is an important issue too.

At present, the Department of Health and Social Care will fund six weeks’ care for those hospital patients who need it when discharged, but that tap is due to be turned off on 31 March. This is despite NHS England saying the funding avoided the need for at least an additional 5,000 beds and 10,000 staff during the winter.

The measure is now expected to be covered by “locally agreed funding arrangements”, if possible.

The British Geriatric Society, NHS Providers and NHS Clinical Commissioners all urged the government to continue funding the scheme into the new financial year as the health system continues to struggle through the pandemic.

Carers UK, the charity that supports unpaid family carers, said ending the funding could leave “families to cope with unacceptable levels of care, which they have not been trained for or supported. As well as being extremely distressing for all concerned, this situation can also lead to rapid readmission.”

Eyes on the 3 March Budget — for this, and a number of other urgent asks for health and care spending. 

What Niall did next

After a long and successful career, Niall Dickson could have opted for a quieter retirement — if not quite slippers in front of the fire, maybe chairing a few inquiries.

Instead, he has opted to keep at least one foot in the melee and taken up the chair’s job at what must be one of the country’s most troubled trusts — East Kent University Hospitals Foundation Trust.

The former NHS Confederation chief executive will take up the role at a critical time for the trust. It is facing prosecution for not providing safe care and treatment to baby Harry Richford, who died a week after his birth, and his mother Sarah. The hearing for this case is expected within weeks of Mr Dickson taking up the chair’s role. Its maternity services are also being scrutinised in an independent inquiry led by Bill Kirkup.

It’s likely to be a painful year for the trust, but possibly one where its longstanding need to reconfigure some services may finally take a definitive step forward. Two options are likely to go out to public consultation in the second half of the year, provided NHS England and Improvement think they are financially viable.

While maternity matters may rightly dominate the next few months, Mr Dickson may have an opportunity later in his reign to steer the trust towards safer ground and possibly even a brighter future.