HSJ’s roundup of Thursday’s key stories

Struggling to pay the bills

After much homework HSJ revealed on Thursday that the Department of Health has issued £874m in bailouts to trusts in 2014-15.

Information released by the DH shows it made dozens of payments to support trusts, some of which were struggling to pay energy and agency bills.

The documents, published by the DH following requests by HSJ, give an insight into some of the difficulties faced by trusts forced to ask for additional in-year funding.

For example, some suppliers to Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust put its account on hold because of delayed payments. In January the trust asked for £7m to pay its creditors and said £280,000 was due to a legal claim against an energy supplier.

The DH made £518m of temporary support payments to NHS trusts and £204m to foundation trusts.

A further £152m was paid to 13 NHS trusts as “policy payments” over the financial year, each described in the DH information as “support for the provision of health services”.

King’s Fund director of policy Richard Murray said the scale of the payments raised serious questions about the tariff system and the relationship between providers and the centre.

Wollaston’s back

Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, has been re-elected chair of the Commons health committee. She was chosen by 532 of her fellow MPs, while 64 voted for her only opponent, the astrology fan David Tredinnick.

As HSJ senior correspondent David Williams observes:

The next stage in devolution

In its efforts to keep track of every twist and turn of the “devo Manc” saga, HSJ has learned that CCGs in Greater Manchester are set to establish a shared support service function.

It means they will not immediately have to go to market to procure external services.

NHS England is supportive, even though it recently instructed all CCGs to use its procurement framework to buy support services.

The exception for Greater Manchester CCGs is apparently to enable their senior leaders to concentrate on the devolution arrangements being developed in the region.

Commissioning support has been an extremely contentious issue within the sector, leading one reader to comment: “The CSU experiment in Greater Manchester was foisted upon the embryonic CCGs and was probably doomed from the start.”

Staying in the region, emergency and high risk surgery will be concentrated on four sites, rather than five, commissioners have announced.

The decision, made on Wednesday as part of the Healthier Together programme, effectively leaves four foundation trusts to duke it out for one remaining “specialist” slot. The three that are not chosen will lose their onsite emergency surgery provision.