HSJ’s roundup of Monday’s must-read stories

Have you tried switching it off and on again?

Monitor’s new director of provider sustainability has used his first interview in the role to urge providers to make the most of existing technology to help cut costs.

Adam Sewell-Jones told HSJ that in his “personal experience”, when new IT systems were implemented at trusts “the old one could always do [the same thing] but no one had switched it on or used it”.

Mr Sewell-Jones is no stranger to the stresses of turning around a struggling organisation after his tenure as deputy chief executive at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust. He said he was “keen to push” better use of technology as part of NHS Improvement’s remit, adding that providers had made poor use of technology already at their fingertips.

He rubbished claims from some providers that no further savings can be made this year, citing skill mix reviews as one possible way to shake out further efficiencies.

A question mark hangs over the role of Mr Sewell-Jones’ team when NHS Improvement comes into being. He called for a decision sooner rather than later, but added there was no point trying to rush to find the “right model” for the new organisation.

A feather in their cap

Some of the more fevered claims in favour of the Department of Health’s cap on agency pay rates got a healthy splash of cold water on Monday, as journalists perused Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority’s impact assessment of the proposed rules.

The regulators warn that while “national level price caps may play a role in reducing the reliance and expenditure on agency and locum staff”, they come with “significant risks to patient safety and performance, which need to be managed, and risks that savings will be limited”.

These risks, they suggest, are likely to pose the “greatest difficulties” to trusts already in special measures or subject to regulatory action, and those in isolated rural areas.

Oh, and it adds a further risk that the caps could increase overall pay costs, if trusts respond by significantly increasing wage rates for all staff, potentially through increased use of overtime.

On balance, the regulators come down in favour of “taking action to tackle agency costs now and bring agency staff back into the regular workforce”.

But the impact assessment appears to confirm fears that the caps will do little to rein in this year’s spiralling provider deficit. It estimates the caps scheduled to come in in late November – which are more generous than those which take effect in April 2016 – would only save around £200m per annum.