HSJ’s roundup of Friday’s must read stories and talking points

Sign on the dotted line

Health minister Alistair Burt has said the main incentive for GPs to switch to the government’s proposed new “voluntary contract” will be to gain more control over their work and more time to see patients.

The new contract was announced by David Cameron at the Conservative Party’s conference this year. It will only be available to large providers, and is intended to enable and accelerate moves towards bigger primary care provider groups.

However, it is not known what incentive there will be for GP practices to move off their existing contracts, which some perceive as offering long term security.

In his first HSJ interview since his government appointment, Mr Burt predicted a “rebalancing” in coming years would see greater funding growth for primary care than secondary care, contrary to the recent trend.

He said: “At a time when there is the pressure in the NHS to make the savings, which is being supplemented by the extra money that is coming in, if you look at where that extra money is going to go, then clearly primary care is going to be a beneficiary.”

The minister also admitted that there had been “teething problems” in the way the first tranche of the government’s £1bn primary care infrastructure fund had been administered.

Separately, Mr Burt said that he was confident the government has “adequate plans” in place for the possibility of a major provider of social care collapsing.

Nothing to see here

An NHS England report into South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust did not reach any conclusions on who was responsible for introducing a pilot that increased response times and could have contributed to the death of at least one patient.

The investigators said no risk assessment had been done before the two month pilot was introduced last winter and it was not “suitably managed”. However, they were unable to pinpoint who was responsible for the pilot because of a “lack of documentation and the lack of information”.

A number of serious incidents could have been linked to the pilot, including the death of a 60-year-old man and an eight-day-old baby who had a nine-minute delay in receiving an ambulance.

The investigators concluded the pilot was not given formal approval by the board, despite stating that an executive committee made up of some senior board members had set up the pilot.

Monitor is currently taking action against the trust as a result of this pilot.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patient’s Association, said the findings of the report were “very damning”. She added: “It is unacceptable for NHS England to say they cannot identify who gave the instructions to downgrade calls to 111 services in the South East.”

Raiding for revenue

HSJ revealed on Friday that the Department of Health has asked regulators to quantify the amount of NHS provider capital expenditure that could be delayed until 2016-17, as central bodies struggle to bring down the huge deficit expected in the provider sector this year.

Monitor and the TDA have been asking to providers how much capital investment they expect to commit in 2015-16, and how much of that spending could be safely deferred.

In the last two years, the DH has repeatedly raided the national capital budget to help cope with the escalating pressure on its revenue budget - and it looks like it’s gearing up for another cash grab.