HSJ’s roundup of Tuesday’s most important stories and debate

‘We want to get to the bottom of what happened’

The health secretary has promised an independent investigation of the death of a baby whose “incredibly distressing” case highlighted a regulatory “gap” in the NHS’s ability to probe historic complaints.

Jeremy Hunt told HSJ on Monday evening he had intervened in the “frankly heart breaking” case of Elizabeth Dixon after her family’s concerns had been “passed around the system” for “far too long”.

Elizabeth was born prematurely at Frimley Park Hospital in 2000. She was left with permanent brain damage after hospital staff failed to monitor or treat her high blood pressure, and in 2001 she died of suffocation when a newly qualified nurse failed to keep her breathing tube clear. The cause of her brain damage was only confirmed in 2013.

In an exclusive interview with HSJ, Mr Hunt said: “I have spoken to Mike Durkin about the case, and he has said that he will make sure there is an independent investigation, which he will commission as part of his new role heading up the safety function at NHS Improvement.”

He added: “I hope that will give some comfort to the Dixon family that we are taking this very seriously, and we do want to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Elizabeth’s parents, Graeme and Anne Dixon, said they were “relieved” that Anne’s antenatal care, the care of Elizabeth and her subsequent death were finally being investigated.

Read HSJ’s full exclusive interview with Jeremy Hunt on hsj.co.uk from Wednesday.

Vanguards getting on with it

After the urgent and emergency care vanguards were told to “get on and do it” by NHS England’s director of new care models, we spoke to four of the sites to find out just what they were getting on and doing.

Their priorities are developing shared patient records and overhauling the 111 system so it becomes a one stop shop for all clinical needs, rather than simply a signposting system. Primary care is being bolstered so more activity can be taken out of the hospital.

There are significant concerns, however, over the lack of finances and workforce to drive these big changes. A lack of money means vanguards will struggle to “double run” services (ie: keep an old service open while a new service is bedding in).

Some of the areas are struggling to attract new staff to the area - Barking, Havering and Redbridge’s lead GP for its vanguard project said this is because it lacks the “sexiness” of central or west London.

All the vanguards will get a slice of the £200m transformation fund but they have not yet been told how much of the pie is theirs.

The special ones

Mr Hunt on Tuesday hailed the “brilliant news” that Tameside Hospital Foundation Trust is set to come out of special measures.

It’s clearly a welcome development, but also prompted HSJ to check how many of the original Keogh trusts still have regulators watching over their shoulders.

More than two years on, four trusts remain special measures, which perhaps raises questions about the strength and impact of the regime.

According to guidance published by the Keogh review team, trusts were expected to exit special measures within 12 months.