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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May: Conservatives are the ‘party of the NHS’

Theresa May directed an offensive into traditional Labour territory in her first party conference speech as prime minister, by saying the Conservatives were now “the party of the NHS”.

The PM said the opposition had “abandoned the centre ground” and she criticised Labour for using the NHS to “divide” the country. “Every election, they say we want to privatise the NHS – and every time we have protected it,” she claimed.

Referring to the Five Year Forward View, she said the Conservatives had given the NHS the “money it asked for to meet its five year plan” – and that by increasing spending by £10bn between 2014 and 2020 the NHS would receive “more than its leaders asked for”.

Hunt’s ‘home grown’ doctors pledge

Jeremy Hunt took to the stage at the Conservative Party conference the day before his boss to give a speech that was relatively light on policy.

In fact, bar the well trailed announcement about plans for the NHS to “grow its own” doctors, there wasn’t much new in his Birmingham set. That announcement wasn’t without controversry however, and Mr Hunt was warned by NHSI chair Ed Smith over language that could make staff from overseas feel “demoralised and diminished”.

What those of us in the hall did get was a selection of Mr Hunt’s “greatest hits”: a speech which would be familiar to most people who have seen the health secretary talk in the past few years.

Stats about how much work the NHS is doing compared to six years ago, about the number of avoidable deaths, shocking “never event” examples, the metaphor of a “plane crashing out of the sky every week”, and blaming Labour for Mid Staffs, all made an appearance.

HMT pulls the strings

The strong arm of the Treasury is becoming ever more apparent in the efforts to recover NHS finances.

HMT was mentioned four times in a guidance document sent out to NHS providers last week, which has set out trusts’ financial targets and rules around the “sustainability and transformation fund” for the next two years.

The targets, issued to every trust, aim to bring the sector into balance in 2017-18, which appears to be the basis on which the Treasury agreed to three years of the STF to plug the deficit.

Meanwhile, NHS Improvement appears to have heeded warnings about the “different incentives”, which could be skewing the financial performance data this year, and is considering another raft of providers that could be put into financial special measures.

New CCG ratings on cancer performance released

Over 85 per cent of clinical commissioning groups are failing to hit required standards on cancer performance and must improve, according to a set of new ratings launched by Mr Hunt (one of the few new numbers in his conference speech).

The controversial ratings, published by NHS England, said 180 out of the 209 CCGs were in either the “needs improvement” (156) or “greatest need of improvement” (24) categories.

Just seven CCGs secured the highest rating of “top performing”, while 22 were “performing well”.

Success regime’s STP style dilemma

The success regimes tasked with turning around Cumbria’s troubled health economy has unveiled plans for a major overhaul of how healthcare is delivered in the region.

The west, north and east Cumbria success regime launched a public consultation last week over its plans to redesign how hospital and community care is provided in the region, including significant changes to emergency, community and maternity services.

The changes are aimed at cutting 2015-16’s combined £70m overspend (predicted to rise to £163m by 2020), tackling staff shortages and improving care quality, including hitting the four hour accident and emergency standards.

The success regime – one of three in the country – is stuck between a similar rock and hard place as the more high profile STPs. On the one hand, there are demands for service change and to make efficiency savings, while on the other, local campaigners will oppose services being moved further away from their doorsteps or cuts to bed numbers.

All go for an ACO?

Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust will take control of a single budget for all local services except primary care from next April in a significant step forward for the new care models programme.

The vanguard trust has confirmed that from April 2017 it will hold a single contract for acute, mental health, community services and adult social care services, establishing a “partially integrated” primary and acute care system.

Local leaders have confirmed the new model of care will be run by an “accountable care organisation” board. A Northumbria Healthcare spokeswoman said the ACO would be a “partnership of the key health providers”, hosted by the trust.

In his latest expert briefing, David Williams looks at how close Northumberland is to being the site of the country’s first ACO.

Redundancy pay clampdown

It appears the government, fresh from its “victory” over junior doctors in the High Court, hasn’t had enough of being at loggerheads with staff unions.

Enter the Treasury and its proposals to substantially cut the level of redundancy pay and exit payments for all NHS staff.

The changes will include a £95,000 cap on public sector exit payments and a route to “claw back” money if senior managers return to working in the public sector.