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

Not all bailouts are created equal

An HSJ investigation has found that the Department of Health paid out £1.2bn in bailouts in 2014-15, to help more than 50 troubled NHS providers pay wages and creditors, replace aging equipment and cut deficits.

The figure, which is around double the amount paid out the previous year, shows just how dependent acute hospitals have become on DH support. More than a third of the acute sector received bailouts last year. Barts Health, England’s biggest trust, received £100m in bailouts – more than the annual budget of some specialist hospitals.

A dozen acute trusts received DH bailouts equivalent to more than 10 per cent of their turnover.

King’s Fund policy director Richard Murray described the figures as “horrific”, and warned that demand for bailouts this year might be so great that the department faced running out of cash.

Our analysis also shows that not all bailouts are created equal. While, at one extreme, some trusts were lucky enough to have their deficits reduced or paid off, others were forced to take their bailouts as “loans”.

Labour deputy leader in the House of Lords Philip Hunt tweeted: “What world do DH live in?! Will it ever be paid?”

Simon Stevens’ ‘back to school’ speech

The summer was officially over for NHS staff at Tuesday lunchtime, as Simon Stevens gave his “welcome back” speech at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester.

While he touched on new care models and the future of cancer treatments, the NHS England chief focused on a new £5m plan to boost the health and wellbeing of health service staff.

The policy includes:

  • initiatives to boost NHS staff health at work led by employers;
  • a new occupational health service for GPs suffering from burnout and stress; and
  • national action to challenge and support catering contractors and PFI providers to raise the standards of food and nutrition.

He said: “When it comes to obesity, there are many causes for concern. We have 5 million people at risk of type 2 diabetes. In the 1.3 million staff we employ we are at least as much a part of the phenomenon as we are the solution to it.”

Many people in the modestly sized auditorium were forced to stand, with some quipping that the lack of seating was a deliberate ploy by Mr Stevens for more NHS staff to feel the benefits of stand-up working.

Others also suggested that Mr Stevens fired the “opening salvo” ahead of the autumn’s spending review, when he said the £8bn extra funding demanded by the NHS Five Year Forward View “was predicated on consistent social care offer and action on public health”.

Hunt’s not so new policy

There was an important policy announcement from Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday, although it only confirmed plans which HSJ readers will have known about since November.

Speaking at the Expo, the health secretary formally stated that patients will be able to access their entire medical record online by 2018.

The electronic records will be “read and write”, meaning patients will be able to add comments and correct errors in their records.

HSJ readers will be familiar with the plans, which had been billed as a “big announcement”, as the move was detailed by the National Information Board in November last year.