The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.
- Today’s departure: Major trust’s workforce chief to leave after four years
- Today’s change of status: Trust to ‘temporarily’ downgrade A&E
The Public Health England review of disparities in coronavirus was always likely to be a hot potato but the release of what felt like a very dry statistical analysis left many readers asking where the meat was.
The answer seems to be on the cutting room floor in the Department of Health and Social Care. HSJ has heard from multiple sources that what was submitted from PHE included sections detailing the lived experience of black, Asian and minority ethnic people and recommendations from organisations.
Professor Kevin Fenton – who led on the report – had confirmed some 10 days earlier that there was a second component of the review, incorporating this, and a third strand looking at other vulnerable groups. All three would be submitted to the government at the end of May for release.
What came out covers the first component and arguably nods to the third with a brief section on migrants and the homeless. Both PHE and DHSC deny anything was removed from that report but have been reluctant to say what has happened to the other components and whether they were submitted at the same time, with the intention they should all be published together, and then quietly dropped.
As NHS England prepares to set out its next steps on how it will handle the covid-19 pandemic, trust leaders are calling on the centre to loosen their grip on key decision making.
Arguments about covid-19 testing data continue to dog the government after test and trace chair Dido Harding failed to provide figures to the Commons health committee.
At yesterday’s hearing, Baroness Harding incurred the exasperation of committee chair Jeremy Hunt when she refused to give numbers on test and trace’s early performance, citing “unvalidated data” as the main reason.
In response, Mr Hunt said he was “quite disappointed” by the failure to answer “quite simple questions”, such as what proportion of people had been contacted by contact tracers within 24 hours of testing positive for covid-19.
Baroness Harding was also unable to give figures on how many tests overall are completed within 24 hours, following Boris Johnson’s new target on this by the end of June.
But she insisted, “no one is more keen than I to see these figures in the public domain”, and stressed her desire to provide the figures by the end of next week.
The testy exchange came in the same week that the UK Statistics Authority rebuked health and social care secretary Matt Hancock over the testing data published by his department, which was described as “neither complete nor comprehensible”.
Given that the UKSA first raised concerns with DHSC on 11 May, there appears to have been a slowness by government officials to take these issues seriously.
The department has also not yet set out why it is taking so long for figures to be validated. It seems the government’s responses to the test data problems lead to more questions than answers.
Devolution part 2
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said local leaders are “nervous” about the current powers which NHSE has and called for a “rapid return” to more local autonomy for trusts.
Since the end of January, the NHS has been in a “level four” incident – which means NHSE can commandeer all local resources through its regional teams. According to a finance director, organisations are currently expecting their costs to be met, regardless of activity and without detailed scrutiny.
Mr Hopson said trusts want decisions such as restarting services, finances and capital spending “to be devolved back down to local level as quickly as possible”.
HSJ has heard differing views from trust leaders about what should happen next. One said the current arrangements encourage trusts to “splurge money,” but another said the large majority of organisations are happy with the emergency measures.