The must read health stories on Monday

Quality control

“The Care Quality Commission will work with NHS Improvement’s assessment of efficiency and the use of resources, and NHS Improvement will work with our assessment of quality,” so said David Behan in an exclusive interview with HSJ on Monday.

The CQC chief executive was outlining the “basic framework” for how the two regulators will work together. Mr Behan had conversations with his counterpart at NHS Improvement, Jim Mackey, on how to develop a “single shared view of quality” across health and care services, but the CQC’s five key questions – are services safe, effective, caring, responsive and well led – will be at the heart of it.

The quality inspector will also work with other arm’s length bodies on collecting one dataset to measure quality.

Mr Behan was speaking as the CQC launched the consultation on its new five year strategy. As flagged by HSJ last October, the regulator proposes moving to a more “risk based” regime (which is not a return to “light touch”, you hear) so it can focus its efforts “where the risk of poor care is greatest”.

He also told us that he believes the hike in fees paid by providers will make the CQC “more accountable” to the people it inspects, and he expects the new national director Healthwatch England to feel free to criticise the CQC  - even though they will be reporting to him.

Desperation at the department

NHS finance directors must be checking their post and inboxes with dread, having received a series of orders from on high recently.

First trusts were given a deadline of 8 February to sign up to “control total” financial targets for 2016-17, in exchange for a cut of the “sustainability and transformation fund”; some will meet the regulators to chat about measures to bring down their deficits by March – “including headcount reduction”.

Then commissioners were told all fines against providers for missing performance targets in the remainder of 2015-16 must be used to prevent the Department of Health from busting its budget.

While last Friday, HSJ’s exclusive showed that the forthcoming Carter review is extremely likely to make even more demands of trusts.

HSJ’s finance expert, Crispin Dowler, writes on hsj.co.uk that the “efforts to save the DH from blowing its budget are looking ever more desperate”.

Forbidding CCGs from using fines money to address provider performance in particular “is hard to interpret it as anything other than a direct trade-off of finance against quality”.

The DH has been driven to such measures by the threat from the Treasury that – much like underperforming NHS organisations – if it doesn’t get its finances in order the department could be stripped of autonomy.

Power surge

Is NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens the fourth most powerful person in country – after the PM, the chancellor and the governor of the Bank of England?

HSJ editor Alastair McLellan argued that he is on Radio 4’s Week in Westminster on Saturday, saying he has “more power than any cabinet minister”.

However, present Paul Waugh’s idea that Mr Stevens could return to frontline politics to lead the Labour party was poo-pooed by MP Gisela Stuart.