HSJ’s daily digest of the must read stories and debate in health policy

Contract talks enter last leg

As the government continues its very public and messy dispute with junior doctors, HSJ has learned that considerably quieter negotiations with the consultant body are nearing completion.

NHS Employers is hopeful of making a final offer to the British Medical Association next month – when junior doctors could stage their first days of strike action.

A letter has also emerged from the BMA consultant committee chair, Keith Brent, which reveals some details over what NHS Employers might be seeking.

The planned changes include the removal of clinical excellence awards and the weekend non-urgent opt-out, as well as adjusting consultant pay scales. There would also be extensions of plain time and weekend hours.

In order to achieve the changes, NHS Employers is likely to have had to offer consultants some safeguards around hours.

Ultimately any final deal will be put to a vote by consultant BMA medmbers, who may choose to reject the offer.

Dispatches from Brum

More than 500 NHS chief executives and senior leaders have gathered in Birmingham over the last two days for the annual NHS Providers Conference.

HSJ’s roaving reporters Shaun Lintern and Lawrence Dunhill were mixing with the speakers and key delegates – including a goal-scoring Jim Mackey, risk-taking Lord Carter and hinting Jeremy Hunt – and have reported back with their key messages to take away from this year’s event.

Desperate measures

“The Department of Health has a problem,” writes Sally Gainsbury on hsj.co.uk. “NHS hospitals are overspending at a rate that seems certain to breach the department’s spending limits.”

The Nuffield Trust’s senior policy analyst says the timing “couldn’t be worse” and “it is perhaps therefore not surprising that the department’s biggest spending arm is exploring somewhat desperate measures”.

But NHS England’s instructions to CCGs to fine acute providers for poor performance, then withhold funds in order to boost their own surpluses has extremely worrying ramifications, she goes on to explain.