Your essential update on the week in health

HSJ Catch Up

This new weekly email gives HSJ subscribers a vital update on the biggest stories from the last week in health. If you have been out of the office or otherwise just too busy to keep up, HSJ Catch Up will ensure you are still in the know.

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Birmingham CCGs could fully merge by April 2018

Earlier in the summer, HSJ reported that three Birmingham clinical commissioning groups were considering a merger to create the biggest CCG in the country.

The three CCGs – Birmingham CrossCity, Birmingham South Central and Solihull – are looking to fully merge by April 2018.

Before tying the knot, however, we understand the CCGs will create a “joint commissioning board”, which will receive delegated powers from the three CCGs from October.

But not everyone in Brum is pleased – namely the local medical committee. The body representing GPs fears the merger will “emasculate” the CCGs, rendering them powerless to challenge the STP agenda and “consigning to history” clinically led commissioning in the area.

Brighton faces special measures after ‘inadequate’ rating

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust is the latest trust to go into special measures, after the CQC rated it inadequate on Wednesday.

The inspection report raised serious concerns with the trust’s leadership and safety. Professor Edward Baker, deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said: “It is clear that the problems we have found on this inspection go right through Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust.

”It is a matter of some concern that we found there was a distinct disconnect between the trust board and staff working in clinical areas, with very little insight by the board into the main safety and risk issues, and seemingly little appetite to resolve them.”

The trust operates Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, which was rated inadequate overall; and the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, which was rated requires improvement.

NHS finances could worsen despite positive forecast

In what is a rare occurrence these days, HSJ revealed what appeared to be a bit of good-ish news about NHS finances on Monday.

Our analysis of acute trust’s finance reports covering quarter one of 2016-17 shows more than three-quarters of them are currently forecasting to meet their control totals set by NHS Improvement. The numbers effectively suggest only a small shortfall of £75m against the provider sector’s overall plan for a deficit of £580m (though regulators have said the deficit needs to be reduced further to £250m during the year).

Doubts have been raised about providers’ ability to meet the controls, and several trust sources have said they expect their position to worsen significantly over the year.

See our full analysis, including interactive map, at

Obesity plan fails to deliver

The government’s childhood obesity plan, launched on Thursday, has been branded a disappointing missed opportunity by senior public health figures after it failed to take action on marketing and advertising of junk food and paid little attention to the role of local authorities – who are responsible for public health budgets. 

Jeremy Hunt had promised the long-awaited plan would be “game changing”. However, the final document, which was originally supposed to be a strategy, is only 13 pages long, leading to accusations it has been watered down.

Neither Mr Hunt nor any other health minister was involved in the public launch of the strategy.

The NHS procurement challenge

Over the years successive governments have found NHS procurement an exceedingly hard nut to crack.

That hasn’t stopped the current government from having a go, and it’s easy to see why – the NHS has to make efficiencies of about 15 per cent by 2021 to remain sustainable, and fixing procurement is seen as an integral part of that effort.

What’s more, in his review of NHS productivity Lord Carter said he had found “astonishing variety” in the number of products and suppliers used across and within trusts. He estimated the savings opportunity to be at least £700m if the health service got its house in order.

To address Lord Carter’s challenge, the Department of Health is planning a shake-up of procurement arrangements. When the current NHS Supply Chain contract ends in October 2018 the DH wants to split the procurement system into 11 “category towers”, each covering a different category of goods.

Unfortunately, the DH doesn’t seem to have taken NHS supply chain professionals with them yet. Procurement staff working at the coalface in NHS trusts are worried the new arrangements will cause confusion about who is responsible for what and actually impede the delivery of savings.

Agency cap could save NHS up to £800m in first year

The cap on agency rates for temporary staff in the NHS is expected to save up to £800m in its first year, according to NHS Improvement’s latest data.

The regulator also shared with HSJ incident data reported by trusts when they believe the cap has led to patient harm or service closure. The reports show two incidents of potential harm since the cap was introduced in November; 23 incidents with no harm; and 11 incidents of service closure.

An average of 214 trusts, or 90 per cent, breached the cap on the grounds of patient safety each week during quarter one of 2016-17.