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.
Jeremy Hunt wants to be health secretary until 2019
In an in-depth interview with HSJ, Jeremy Hunt has set out wide ranging plans for the next phase of his time as health secretary.
As HSJ editor Alastair McLellan notes: “He knows the length of his tenure means he has a rare opportunity to leave a legacy and wants to stay in post for another ‘two to three years’ to deliver it.”
In the interview, Mr Hunt also revealed:
- Plans to focus heavily on improvements to mental health services for children and adolescents, which he described as “the biggest single area of weakness in NHS provision”.
- His expectation that the NHS will increase the number of nurses in substantive jobs as it cuts agency nursing.
- A drive to reduce litigation costs “throughout the NHS”.
- He believes the failure to investigate unexpected deaths uncovered at Southern Health was likely to be “a problem across the NHS”.
- The government has entered talks with unions over Agenda for Change contract reform, and is still planning consultant contract changes.
- He believes local NHS leaders have a responsibility to make the case for service reconfiguration, rather than politicians.
More trusts in financial special measures
As expected, the new financial special measures regime was expanded on Monday to include three more acute trusts.
Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust, East Sussex Healthcare Trust, and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust were placed in the regime by NHS Improvement.
Gloucestershire Hospitals was the least surprising, given the sudden announcement of its underlying deficit position last month.
Along with Barts Health Trust, the Sussex trusts are now in two forms of special measures – one for finance and one for quality, which will need to be finely balanced.
Essex trust rated inadequated
Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust became the latest trust to be put in special measures for concerns over quality.
The Care Quality Commission highlighted serious concerns around patient safety, leadership and the Essex trust’s failure to hit key targets. Last weekend, it declared a “black alert” meaning no beds were available.
Chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards added: “The vision for the trust was not clearly articulated by the senior team and staff. The executive team provided us with different visions, risks and strategies for the future, which did not assure us that the team were working cohesively.”
STPs asked to publish plan summaries
Sustainability and transformation plans are never going to be an easy sell to the public, so it’s no surprise that NHS England want to keep a tight rein on how they are communicated locally.
In a note sent to local leaders last week, NHS England strategy director Michael Macdonnell said: “As you prepare for publication, we would like to work with you to ensure that plans are written in a way that gives the public a good understanding of the proposed changes…
“Roger Davidson [NHS England head of media and public policy], who will be coordinating nationally, has already been in touch with your communications leads to begin this process.”
The note, seen by HSJ, said it was important for the plans to “articulate tangible benefits for patients” in language that is “clear and compelling”.
The catch, of course, is that the STPs must work within extremely tight financial constraints and achieve a balanced position by 2021 within the funding envelope announced last year.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson was pretty clear and compelling last week when he said these constraints mean STPs are drawing up fantasy plans – many of which will involve hugely controversial reconfiguration or merger plans – which they know can’t be delivered.
Private healthcare firm quits high profile partnership
A private healthcare firm has pulled out of a high profile partnership with the NHS, which is due to develop a £120m multipurpose complex.
Ramsay Health Care UK has been involved in the project with Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust since 2013, and had been appointed to run a 90 bed hospital as part of the complex.
The company took the decision to pull out shortly after the EU referendum, HSJ understands. However, it has declined to comment on the reasons for withdrawing, including on whether they were related to economic uncertainty following the vote.
‘Scandalous, inexplicable, wholly unjustified’
That was the BMA’s take on the Care Quality Commission’s proposed fee increases for providers in 2017-18 – specifically over the plan for some GP practices to pay up to 76 per cent more than at present.
The CQC’s consultation document sets out options for increasing fees next financial year, including increases of nearly 50 per cent for NHS trusts and foundations trusts.
Earlier this year the CQC decided to move to “full cost recovery” from providers over two years
What next for junior doctors?
The dispute between the government and junior doctors has been one of the most bitter in the history of the NHS. The new contract is being implemented from this month, despite being rejected in a ballot of BMA members, many of whom remain unhappy with the details of the contract and its implications for their work-life balance.
An HSJ roundtable looked beyond the rights and wrongs of the dispute to examine how the NHS can move forward in this difficult situation.