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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Trusts asked to plan for managing provider sector deficit

NHS trusts have been given a month to produce plans for merging back-office and pathology services with their neighbours, as part of a three-pronged plan to bear down on this year’s provider sector deficit.

The letter, from NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackey and chair Ed Smith, confirmed that the provider sector is on course for a deficit of £550m this year. It warned that this level of deficit makes “management of the overall NHS financial position very risky”.

It says NHS Improvement is aiming to get the provider sector deficit down to £250m this year through a combination of three measures:

  • bearing down on paybill growth in selected providers;
  • large-scale back office consolidations; and
  • the merger or transfer of “unsustainable” elective services.

However, Mr Mackey has dismissed rumours that NHS Improvement might “tear up control totals” and issue trusts with even more demanding financial targets.

Hunt welcomes healthcare staff from EU countries

Jeremy Hunt has sought to reassure the UK’s 110,000 health and care staff from other EU countries that they are welcome. He said on Monday: “You do a brilliant job for your patients, you are a crucial part of our NHS, and as a country we value you.”

NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh and NHS Employers boss Danny Mortimer made similar appeals on Friday morning

The theme is picked up by HSJ editor Alastair McLellan in a leader published on Monday: “Our thoughts should be with those who have left homes elsewhere in Europe and are now working in the NHS, especially those working in areas that delivered high votes for Brexit. They will need the support of NHS leaders both national and local as they continue to care for British patients.”

HSJ has backed up these words with action, by creating a new HSJ Award. It will seek to recognise and celebrate the work of any staff member who left their home in another EU country and now works in the NHS.

Major changes at Southern Health

On Thursday we found out the results of Tim Smart’s eagerly anticipated review of Southern Health Foundation Trust.

Mr Smart, the former chief executive of King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust, was parachuted into the troubled trust at the end of April.

Southern Health has been an embattled organisation since the publication of last year’s Mazars report, which highlighted failures by the trust to investigate and learn from patient deaths.

Crucially, the trust’s chief executive, Katrina Percy, will be staying on.

However, Mr Smart said that she had in the past been “too operationally focused” and would now be concentrating on “delivery of the future strategy of the trust”.

DH reorganises and forms single new directorate

The Department of Health has reorganised its directorate structure, HSJ broke on Wednesday night.

The changes are part of the department’s cost cutting drive aimed at reducing running costs by 30 per cent by 2020 and losing up to 700 posts.

The four new directorates are:

  • Global and public health.
  • Community care, led by Tamara Finkelstein.
  • Acute care and workforce, led by Charlie Massey.
  • Finance and group operations, led by David Williams.

Dismantling what’s left of the FT/non-FT divide

Some significant proposals in NHS Improvement’s new performance measure proposals.

The regulator’s view of the world can be clearly discerned from the things it is considering making part of the formal assessment system for trusts: agency staff, the new efficiency metric from the Carter review and more.

The significance of the former can be gauged from the fact that agency spend is also being considered as part of an assessment of a trust’s governance, not just how it’s doing on finance.

This is maybe overkill considering the market forces that govern agency spending are largely out of boards’ control. There can’t be many chief executives out there who are lackadaisical about it. Indeed, HSJ has been told about trusts referring agencies to counter-fraud services.

Struggling CCGs spent thousands on interim directors

An HSJ investigation has found several Clinical Commissioning Groups which are subject to NHS England legal directions spent hundreds of thousands of pounds each on interim executives and directors last year.

CCGs put in directions are often required by the national commissioner to appoint turnaround directors, or have other executive appointments approved by it.

Our research suggests this approach is leading to groups appointing directors quickly to difficult jobs – usually interims through agencies or personal service companies at high pay rates.

HSJ editor Alastair McLellan tweeted that “this has got to stop”, and referred to an editorial from a fortnight ago calling for CCGs to be reorganised.

But merging isn’t only an option for struggling CCGs. Last week, Aylesbury Vale and Chiltern CCGs in Buckinghamshire revealed they were targeting a merger, having already joined their leaderhsip teams, while HSJ has reported on three Birmingham CCGs’ plans to establish a “single commissioning voice” for the city.

Mary Seacole honoured

On Thursday, a statue of pioneering black nurse Mary Seacole was unveiled at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Former trust chief executive Lisa Rodrigues writes on our website why, following the EU referendum, this tribute is more important than ever.

Read Lisa’s article on hsj.co.uk