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.

Innovate again

Readers have had fun this week with news of a new national innovation unit in NHS England and Improvement. The problem in the NHS has not traditionally been innovation but disseminating that innovation.

A Department of Health and Social Care announcement said the accelerated access collaborative, set up last year, was now the “umbrella organisation for UK health innovation” and the “‘front door’ for innovators looking to get their products funded by the NHS”.

What is less clear is how the AAC will fit in with the existing innovation infrastructure of the NHS – not least academic health science networks.

Borderline illegal audacity

Can’t get a sustainable funding solution for social care through a hung Parliament while the chancellor is seeking to eliminate a budget deficit in the face of a shaky economy and a national political crisis? Why not try some “borderline illegal” audacity?

Daily Insight is not quite sure what this suggestion for helping the social care crisis from the Care Quality Commission chief executive actually means, but we like it.

Ian Trenholm – who is a former borough council chief among other things –  told a conference: “There is something about audacity within this room, within local government more broadly, to say can we create some prototypes? Can we create some new ways of doing things which are borderline illegal perhaps?”

Making good on warnings

The saga over who should run the Nottingham Treatment Centre has taken a new twist. Circle Healthcare has made good on its warnings and is taking legal action against Rushcliffe Clinical Commissioning Group.

Interestingly, the company has chosen a line of attack rarely seen in NHS procurement legal battles. Circle claims the troubled state of preferred bidder Nottingham University Hospitals Trust’s finances means the trust’s bid was not credible.

If the court finds in Circle’s favour, might other bidders spot opportunities to exploit the financial problems experienced by many trusts?

An early end

HSJ’s latest update on a controversial community service contract in Staffordshire, handed to Virgin Care in 2015, will not surprise those readers who have been following along for the last three years.

When HSJ published the story revealing East Staffordshire CCG had handed a seven-year, £270m prime provider contract to Virgin Care, many readers predicted it would meet an early end.

These predictions were confirmed this week. Virgin Care served the CCG notice that it intends to hand back all elements of its contract, six months after the provider said it wanted to hand back the prime provider elements.

Bygones be bygones

More than a year after it was launched, NHS England’s largest single medicine procurement has come to an end.

Given that only three pharmaceutical companies currently supply the hepatitis C drugs in question, it’s not surprising the competition was hard fought. The fact that one of the bidders felt the need to take NHS England to court over the tender design was more surprising.

The challenge was dismissed by a High Court judge, and NHSE added some strong words afterwards about Abbvie wasting taxpayers’ money and delaying the overall programme.

But that seems to be water under the bridge now. Abbvie has received a share of the contracts, and the company “welcomed” NHS England’s decision – having “worked closely with them to build an HCV elimination strategy”, according to their statement.

Is this the end?

HSJ has reported proposed cuts to training budgets for two specialist mental health professions – child psychotherapy and clinical psychology.

The proposed cuts also come when the NHS will be trying to diversify its mental health workforce beyond the traditional nurse and consultant roles. Is it wise, particularly within children’s services, to make cuts which could decrease part of the already limited staffing?

Then again, could the funding be better used elsewhere? Perhaps the all singing and all dancing forthcoming workforce plan has the answer.

Waste not, want not

It’s been nearly seven months since a significant portion of the NHS was hit by problems at a major clinical waste company, but – in the words of one expert – “it’s now the fun begins”.

Michael Taylor, managing director of waste management at Mitie, has been busy since the stockpiling scandal came to light last October.

His team was given a weekend to sort out new clinical waste management services for 17 trusts in Yorkshire and the north east, after the government’s patience with Healthcare Environmental Services ran out.

Meanwhile, work to eradicate the backlogs of waste outside hospitals continues. Although Mr Taylor was confident this would be achieved by early May, much waste – likely to be more than a thousand tonnes’ worth – still remains in HES’ warehouses across the country.

Ploughing on

Baroness Dido Harding may have dashed hopes that the forthcoming interim workforce implementation plan will include hard figures on shortages and workforce demand in a recent speech at the Royal College of Physicians annual conference.

According to Baroness Harding, the NHS has spent too much time guessing how many tractors it needs, rather than looking at the bigger picture.

She emphasised the interim plan’s focus on devolving workforce planning to local areas, but made clear the modelling would not go as far as setting out how many cardiologists “we will need in Scunthorpe in 10 years’ time”.