HSJ’s roundup from an important policy day for the NHS

Thursday was a busy and significant day for the health service, with major decisions on commissioning allocations for the coming years; the publication of the final report on failings at Southern Health FT, and the publication of the government’s NHS mandate.

CCGs face real terms cuts

The NHS England board agreed policies that mean for the first time some CCGs face real terms cuts to their core budgets. The board was deciding how £560bn of funding will be carved up over the next five years.

However, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said transformation funding will mean all areas see real terms growth.

Visit hsj.co.uk on Friday for in-depth coverage of the allocations decisions.

The NHS gets its new year’s resolutions

Meanwhile, at Richmond House the Department of Health was dishing out its orders for the NHS over the next five years.

The new mandate says areas of the country will be “transformation areas” that must provide access to enhanced GP services and “make progress on integration of health and social care, integrated urgent and emergency care, and electronic record sharing”.

NHS England also got its instructions to start publishing new CCG ratings next year.

Southern Health damned in official report…

Following a draft version leaking last week, the final version of the report into Southern Health’s failure to investigate and learn from patient deaths was published on Thursday, with the leadership being severely criticised.

It was conducted for NHS England, in response to the death of 18 year old Connor Sparrowhawk, who had autism and epilepsy, at the trust’s short term assessment and treatment unit in Oxfordshire.

NHS Improvement, the CQC and local commissioners accepted all the report’s recommendations, while the trust said: “We apologise unreservedly for this and recognise that we need to make further improvements.”

…But what happens next is unclear

Responding to the report, NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackey said “when there are mistakes or the service falls short of expectations we have a responsibility to get a grip of the situation”, but the regulators have not yet announced any further enforcement action.

HSJ understands an announcement on whether Monitor will take further action is expected in the coming days, while the CQC will visit the trust in early 2016.

DH says the drug dispensers don’t work

NHS funding to community pharmacies is set to be reduced by 6 per cent in cash terms next year, the DH also announced on Thursday.

The £170m reduction in 2016-17, which may be followed by further cuts in subsequent years, is part of work to reduce health service spending by means other than imposing efficiency requirements on NHS provider trusts.

Better care fund boost

Councils which will have limited ability to raise additional funds through the council tax social care precept will get a bigger share of the extra better care fund cash promised by the chancellor in the spending review.

A consultation on the local government finance settlement said the money would be allocated through a separate grant in recognition of the fact authorities “have varying capacity to raise council tax”.

New additions to the workforce

Up to 1,000 trainees will begin in a new “nursing associate” role in 2016 to bridge the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses, under government plans announced on Thursday.

The DH said the role will deliver hands-on care and will allow registered nurses to spend more time on clinical duties and take a greater lead in decisions about patient care.