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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Patients could be forced to prove NHS eligibility

A London teaching trust is working on proposals to deny free maternity care to “non-eligible” women from overseas, by requiring all patients to prove they are entitled to use the NHS.

The proposals have been revealed as part of a pilot scheme being devised by St George’s University Hospitals Foundation Trust.

The trust says the government is also working on new rules to ensure charges for overseas patients are enforced, and the Home Office is “very keen to formally support this pilot”.

The documents say if the pilot is successful “the aim would be to roll it out across the hospital to safeguard all ‘front door’ access”.

The board papers also reveal the Cabinet Office and DH are currently working on new national guidance which is “likely to advocate routine presentation of proof of identity and eligibility” for NHS care.

The papers say the cost of non-eligible overseas patients to the local system is £4.6m a year.

Currently, frontline staff in A&E and obstetrics are responsible for trying to work out if a new patient is eligible for treatment. However, the papers say in many cases staff are “too embarrassed” to ask whether a patient is eligible, and there are “several categories for non-eligibility which makes the legal framework very complicated”.

New revelations at Morecambe Bay

A senior midwife at the centre of the Morecambe Bay maternity care scandal received an “irregular” redundancy deal, which also saw her avoid an internal investigation into her performance.

Jeanette Parkinson, the former maternity risk manager at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, “appears to have been significantly overpaid (by as much as 14 months)” under a redundancy agreement when she left in spring 2012, according to a new internal review report obtained by HSJ.

The internal retrospective review took place in July this year.

The summary report of the review seen by HSJ reveals that the unusual deal also saw Ms Parkinson receive more than 470 hours of overtime pay, and included an assurance she would not be investigated in exchange for taking the deal.

It was then revealed that the Royal College of Midwives threatened legal action to prevent the trust from publishing the report into the payoff.

List of highest spending agency staff in trusts

NHS trusts face being named and shamed in the national media over their use of agency staff, as regulators turn up the heat on local leaders by yet another notch.

In its a recent communication to trusts, regulators have warned trusts they are “falling short” of targets to slash agency spending, and may publish anonymised lists of the highest earning agency staff at individual organisations.

They may also publish lists of agency staff employed for more than six consecutive months.

Are STPs over ambitious?

Health economy leaders are being forced to draw up sustainability plans which they do not believe can be delivered, according to the national body that represents NHS trusts.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, told the Commons health committee on Tuesday that financial requirements placed on STPs were leading to “vastly over-ambitious” proposals.

Whistleblower guardian must be louder

The office of the national guardian for the freedom to speak up has had a troubled birth.

Created after Sir Robert Francis QC’s review into NHS whistleblowing last year, the first incumbent, Dame Eileen Sills, quit after just two months when she found it was impossible to balance the role with her responsibilities as a trust nursing director.

In the words of the new national guardian, Henrietta Hughes, who started last week, the “hiatus” since Dame Eileen’s departure has been “really challenging”.

It’s positive to finally have someone in post, and many NHS employees will welcome Dr Hughes background, which combines clinical practice as a GP with a management role as an NHS England area team medical director.

However, Dr Hughes should brace herself for further challenges, because she’ll have a tough time winning the confidence of NHS whistleblowers.

Where Dame Eileen pledged to shop trusts to their regulators if they mistreated those who raised concerns, Dr Hughes struck a more emollient tone, stressing that she will issue “recommendations rather than judgments” and will not take a “punitive” approach to organisations.

Repairs backlog rockets

The backlog of “high risk” maintenance problems at NHS trust estates increased by almost 70 per cent last year.

According to data released on Tuesday relating to 2015-16, NHS providers face costs of £775m to deal with high risk maintenance issues – compared to £458m in 2014-15 and £357m in 2013-14.

Katrina Percy exits

Ten months after the Mazars report detailed Southern Health Foundation Trust’s failure to properly investigate and learn from patient deaths, the seemingly inevitable has happened.

Last week, Katrina Percy left the trust’s employment. She stood down as chief executive of the troubled trust less than six weeks ago, saying that “ongoing personal media attention” had made her role “untenable”.

She moved into a new role at the trust providing strategic advice on service transformation to Hampshire’s GPs, and continued to draw her chief executive salary of at least £185,000 a year.

Six week later, the Southern Health board said it had “reflected” on the feedback it had received from “public, patients and families” and mutually decided with Ms Percy that it was “no longer possible” for her to continue in the newly created role.

HSJ100 2016

The top three in this year’s HSJ100 may look familiar (spoiler alert: Simon Stevens and Jeremy Hunt were numbers one and two for a second year in a row), but the rest of our annual power list reveals big changes in the people with the greatest influence over the English NHS.

There are 31 new entries, 19 people dropped down the rankings by 10 places or more, and 11 see a similar rise. Read HSJ editor Alastair McLellan’s in-depth analysis for more trends and what they mean for the NHS over the next 12 months – and why Mr Hunt is the “comeback kid”.