HSJ’s roundup of Tuesday’s must read stories and opinion

What you need to know about the contract row

“Make us tired, make us stressed, that’s how you’ll kill the NHS,” junior doctors chanted on Monday night at a protest in Westminster against the government’s plan to impose a new contract. The Daily Express has launched a “crusade” to scrap the contract proposals. While The Guardian reports that there is “overwhelming” support for junior doctors if they decide to strike.

The heat generated since it was revealed junior doctors would be forced to work under new terms and conditions from August next year has intensified in the last two days, after Jeremy Hunt invited the new chair of the British Medical Association junior doctors committee to discuss the contract proposals (which the association says are unfair and unsafe) with him. Plus, NHS Employers cancelled its engagement events. For its part, the employers representative body has already said the proposals should only be seen as a starting point for talks with the BMA.

Amid the bluster and counter-bluster, HSJ’s workforce correspondent Shaun Lintern has answered the most important questions and busted the biggest myths about the row.

Don’t panic

Panic. That’s what’s happening in the Department of Health, according to King’s Fund boss Chris Ham, mainly over the prospect of a £2bn deficit (at least) in the NHS provider sector and whether it will get any extra funding in the comprehensive spending review.

Meanwhile, he writes on hsj.co.uk: “In the Treasury there is denial about the scale of the problem, in part because of a belief that the NHS is receiving more favourable treatment than most other public services.”

The NHS needs to get its own house in order before getting more cash is the view over the road from Richmond House.

Professor Ham says “the unanswered question” is where the prime minister is positioned in this debate, given his frequently expressed personal commitment to the NHS but also his close relationships with the chancellor and the health secretary.

“The answer may not be known until the conclusion of the spending review in November.” Whitehall doesn’t sound like the most fun place to be for the next couple of months.

Framework first

NHS England’s lead provider framework for buying commissioning support services has been blighted by delays in recent weeks, with one much larger procurement stalling due to a lack of provider interest, while another failed amid a lack of confidence among clinical commissioning groups.

So the national commissioning body will be pleased that on Tuesday Optum, part of UnitedHealth Group, became the first supplier to win a tender on the framework.

The company won a £9m contract to provide the full range of support services for South Lincolnshire and South West Lincolnshire CCGs.