HSJ’s roundup of Wednesday’s key stories and talking points

The new definition of success

Jeremy Hunt marked the third anniversary of his tenure as health secretary by redrawing the dividing lines of NHS provider policy in clear, bold strokes.

The “quality imprimatur” for an NHS provider, he said in an exclusive HSJ interview, was no longer foundation trust status but rather the attainment of a “good” or “outstanding” rating by the Care Quality Commission. He floated the possibility of changing the law to give FT style freedoms to any provider that had been rated highly by the regulator.

For good measure, the health secretary also said there were “too many trusts” in the NHS, and called for the health service to “up the pace” of development of hospital chains and other provider reforms.

But it was Mr Hunt’s quest to make CQC ratings the “single definition of success” that most caught the attention of commentators.

Health Foundation policy director Richard Taunt said any “single definition of success” needed to balance “factors including performance today and building capability for change in the future”, noting: “Such an approach will require political courage to give organisations sufficient time and space away from short term targets to make long term improvements.”

Meanwhile, Health Policy Insight editor Andy Cowper said the changes Mr Hunt wanted to see would require politically difficult primary legislation, and concluded: “Whether the end game is to abolish or universalise FT status and freedoms, the aim here is to underline the sidelining of Monitor.”

This, he said, served as a “valedictory stab in the front for Monitor’s outgoing chief executive David Bennett from Mr Hunt”. Painful.

One in, one out

The day after Tameside Hospital FT exited special measures, West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust faces being placed in the regime after a critical CQC inspection, HSJ revealed on Wednesday.

We understand the CQC’s report, due to be published first thing on Thursday, will be damning, and will recommend the trust be placed in special measures.

West Hertfordshire has a long history of care quality and governance issues, and its ongoing difficulties will be unsurprising to many.

The trust has a known problem maintaining safe staffing levels, and last year it was revealed that it missed the opportunity to identify major problems with its cancer waiting times management.

There has been significant board level churn in recent months.

However, the story is also attracting attention because the previous chief executive of the trust was Samantha Jones, who won HSJ’s chief executive of the year gong last year, before being poached by Simon Stevens to run the new care models programme at NHS England.