HSJ’s roundup of the day’s must read stories and talking points

Braced for bad news

Jim Mackey has won plenty of plaudits recently for not mincing his words (see his exclusive HSJ interview and NHS Providers conference speech for evidence), and he was telling it like it is again on Thursday morning.

The first NHS Improvement chief executive warned that half-year financial results for the provider sector, to be released on Friday morning, will be “awful”.

Pulling no punches, he continued: “Those that are working in the service will have seen your own results, which are probably awful as well. 80-odd per cent of providers, certainly, are in trouble this year.”

His comments came a month after it was revealed that providers recorded a £930m deficit for the first quarter of 2015-16, and less than a week before the comprehensive spending review –an event HSJ’s Dave West said “will almost certainly prove the most important day for the NHS in this parliament, if not beyond”.

Visit hsj.co.uk on Friday for full coverage of the quarter two results.

Hunt hits back

It was a fast paced day for developments in the junior doctors’ dispute with the government on Thursday, as the British Medical Association revealed the results of its ballot of 37,000 doctors on plans for potential strike action.

According to the BMA, 98 per cent of trainee medics voted for strike action and 99 per cent voted in favour of action short of strike, with a turnout of 76 per cent.

In its first real move towards ending the impasse, the BMA also offered the government mediation talks with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

However, health secretary Jeremy Hunt deepened the row and rejected the BMA’s offer, demanding instead that the union return to “meaningful talks” with the Department of Health.

Mr Hunt has previously said there are “not pre-conditions” to negotiations, but the BMA is unlikely to sit down with the government after it walked out of talks in October 2014.

As the strike result was being digested, NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh sent a letter to the BMA’s council chair Mark Porter raising concern over whether doctors would respond to major incidents such as terrorist attacks while on strike.

He also queried the guidance to doctors who might be on strike when hospitals were short staffed, saying that the BMA needed to advise doctors correctly that patient safety had to come first as per GMC guidelines.

Sir Bruce’s criticism of the strike action was also joined by chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, who said the “severity” of the BMA strike was a “step too far” and she urged both sides to negotiate.

It’s not all doom and gloom

Despite his dire warning about NHS providers’ finances, Jim Mackey wanted to highlight “fantastic things happening” in the NHS. He said: “The NHS overall I think is still the best system in the world, in terms of a joined up, fully comprehensive, accessible to all system. And we need to cherish that.”

The HSJ Awards is the biggest showcse of such “fantastic things” in the health service, and the prizes were handed out at an awards ceremony in London on Wednesday night, hosted by  Clare Balding.

Notable winners included Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, which took three gongs, chief executive of the year Sheen Cumiskey, and provider trust of the year Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Special recognition awards were presented to patient safety campaigners Julie Bailey and James Titcombe.