HSJ’s roundup of key developments from an immensely important week.

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NICE suspends work on safe staffing, as CQC is told to rate hospital efficiency

This week saw a number of extremely significant developments in health policy.

The health secretary’s big move was to ask the Care Quality Commission to include efficiency as one of its “key criteria” for rating leadership in its inspection regime.

Jeremy Hunt seemingly skipped over this change - along with an anticipated announcement he was dropping two elective waiting time targets - in his keynote speech to this year’s NHS Confederation conference. Fortunately, he revealed it exclusively to HSJ later in the day, saying he did not want a situation where “we have the government and Monitor asking for transformation and efficiency, and the CQC inspection regime asking for a different set of priorities around safety and quality”.

After the post Mid Staffs period in which patient safety, including “inputs” such as nursing numbers, was firmly at the top of the priority list for the NHS, the focus is firmly shifting on to finance and efficiency, although national figures including Mr Hunt dispute that there is a trade off.

This appears to be further evidenced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suspending its work to determine safe staffing levels across the NHS. This has already attracted wider media attention and been called into question by Sir Robert Francis.

Healthcare leaders are left resting on the mantra that quality and lower cost are mutually supportive, not contradictory, and hoping it is true.

The NHS boy band

There were plenty of boy band quips as the most senior figures in the NHS took to the stage at the Confed conference to discuss the Five Year Forward View, especially when NHS Trust Development Authority chief Bob Alexander proclaimed to be the lead singer, when grabbing a hand held microphone.

But many in the audience asked the obvious question as the six-strong, greying, all white, male panel discussed the issues of inequality and diversity in the NHS - where are the women?

Given we have to work with what we have for now, HSJ published an interviewed with NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens on Wednesday bringing revelations on agency staffing, cancer funding, emergency care reform, and the fate of struggling CCGs.

Five must-knows

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