Your essential update on health for the week.

HSJ Catch Up

This 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.

Interest-free borrowing

There are whole expensive programmes dedicated to making sure the NHS doesn’t get ripped off buying stuff from the private sector. But a lesser known wheeze goes the other way. It turns out the NHS is a terrible customer in terms of paying bills on time, a situation that is getting worse, according to the most recent data.

Some finance directors claim they were instructed to delay payments to suppliers to help ease their cashflow position.

Department of Health and Social Care moneyman David Williams was hauled in front of Parliament’s public accounts committee last year to explain why the NHS treated business so badly. He said then that the DHSC did not condone this behaviour and was encouraging trusts to desist – but also that it was getting worse.

The late payments add up to an unofficial loan from suppliers, one they are often unwilling to challenge the NHS for fear of losing the business forever.

The much delayed “one stop shop” for integration

After complaints from suppliers and months of delays (most of the) new framework for sustainability and transformation partnerships and integrated care systems to buy digital and transformation stuff and services has been published.

Over the next four years, NHS England has estimated local NHS organisations will spend £300m through the framework buying tech and support to help integrate regional health and care.

If the 78-supplier list is anything to go by, much of this money will go to big consultancy firms, commissioning support units and large tech companies.

NHS England has had big ambitions for a “one stop shop” framework for integrated care but whether it proves popular with providers will be the real test.

Get the price right?

The NHS spent an estimated £4.3bn on generic medicines in 2016-17 so the news that a no-deal Brexit would likely result in increased drug costs will be a significant cause for concern.

Senior industry sources have warned that the industry’s cost base would increase and this could filter through to a number of products in this high volume, low complexity market.

Considering there was an unprecedented increase in the prices of certain generic medicines in 2017-18 (a surge clinical commissioning groups bore the brunt of), most will be unprepared for a further price increase after March 30.

New cancer waiting times

From December, NHS England will start its new method for measuring patient waiting times for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The regulator has changed the way that 62-day breaches are shared between multiple providers involved in the patient’s care.

If the trust that diagnoses a patient will not be treating him or her, it must now refer them to the second provider within 38 days. The “treating provider” then has 24 days to start treatment, so the 62-day referral to treatment target can be met overall.

NHS England told HSJ that the new process is intended to increase transparency and clearly show where delays in the system are occurring.

However, the new system has raised concerns among some providers.

Labour moving onto vacant ground?

The Labour Party is keen to be seen as a government in waiting and last night the party’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth made a savvy attempt to steal the patient safety mantle from the Tories now that Jeremy Hunt has left the stage.

In a rare move, the Labour frontbench have drawn up specific policies on medical examiners and safe staffing with a view to introducing changes to the government’s planned Healthcare Safety Bill. This is due to be put through Parliament to give the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch a statutory footing.

The government will need to either accept the amendments or take a stance against two issues it has previously been in full support of.

A rare sacking

A chief executive has been sacked after more than 12 years in post, HSJ has learned.

Ian Renwick was dismissed from his post leading Gateshead Health Foundation Trust after a disciplinary hearing on Friday.

The hearing was convened by chair Julia Hickey and the trust would not comment on the cause of the disciplinary proceedings.

According to board papers, Mr Renwick was at every board meeting up until June and July where he is listed in the minutes as an apology for absence.

Mr Renwick has 14 days to appeal the decision.

But the startling thing about the dismissal is how quietly the whole thing has been handled. The trust issued a statement following an enquiry from HSJ, but did not make any announcement at all on the day of Mr Renwick’s departure.

There was also no announcement of Mr Renwick being placed on, or taking any leave, as there was in the lead up to Sir Leonard Fenwick’s sacking from neighbouring Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals FT last year.