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.

Babylon email threats to CQC

In December, Babylon Healthcare and the Care Quality Commission faced each other in the High Court hearing regarding a disagreement over a critical inspection report.

HSJ revealed the back and forth between the digital primary care provider and regulator leading up to that appearance.

The emails, provided to HSJ under the Freedom of Information Act, detail Babylon’s attempts to block or amend the report before publication.

They included a threat to sue the CQC for damages if an “inaccurate and misleading” report was published, the suggestion that one of the regulator’s chief inspectors could appear biased, and expansive criticism of CQC’s approach to inspecting digital providers, including raising doubts about the quality of inspectors.

CCG asked to redo consultation over closure plan

A row over Corby Clinical Commissioning Group’s urgent care centre has taken its latest twist.

The CCG has lost another legal judgement, this time about its lack of formal consultation of plans to change the centre into a same day GP access hub.

In the High Court, Corby CCG was told it had made clear promises to its local community that it would formally consult on plans and it had failed to do so.

The judge, Milwyn Jarman QC, ordered the CCG to conduct the consultation it had promised.

Trusts with the largest land sales

NHS trusts are under increasing pressure to sell land which is deemed surplus to requirements, after Sir Robert Naylor estimated they could raise up to £6bn by flogging parts of their estate.

After his review last year, the Department of Health and Social Care suggested it could penalise areas where “progress on disposals is not sufficiently ambitious”.

The results of that pressure have started to be felt in 2017-18, when providers sold more than £350m worth of land, which was an increase of more than 50 per cent on the previous year.

Mortuary failings see ‘dramatic increase’

More than 500 “shortfalls” in mortuary services have been exposed in 2017-18, triggering concerns by staff at the Human Tissue Authority, the regulator of the post-mortem sector.

Representative bodies for pathologists said they are taking the rise “extremely seriously”, and warned workforce problems and increasing demand were among the main factors.

The 510 failings last year, reported during HTA inspections, were found across nearly all the 58 mortuaries, which were inspected in 2017-18.

Knockin’ on the Treasury’s door

Health education may have been left out in the cold when it came to the NHS’s long term funding settlement, but its chief executive has put out a fresh bid for its fair share.

In an exclusive with HSJ, Ian Cumming said the arm’s length body will be asking for new money to enable it to tackle widespread workforce shortages in the NHS. He pledged to invest as much of this money as possible into the education and training of the existing workforce.

Although the Continuing Professional Development budgets will see a welcome boost of up to £90m, Mr Cumming admitted they still won’t reach the same level of funding they were at four or five years ago, something the chief executive pledged to change.

Pharma chiefs warning over Brexit

HSJ has spoken with senior pharmaceutical industry figures about contingency plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit and the warnings were stark. The government’s plans to stockpile drugs and medical devices have been left late and there is a risk that patients could go without the vital medication and devices they need.

Plus, any rush to stockpile medicines by community pharmacists could see drug prices “shooting up” in the autumn, as supplies run short.

While health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has announced plans to start stockpiling medicines and medical devices, it is still not clear how the government intends to do this.

Staff fear a ‘dark force’ in a south London trust

An independent review has found staff warning of a “dark force” within St George’s University Hospital Foundation Trust’s cardiac surgical service, with dysfunction and tribalism contributing to worsening mortality rates.

A report in 2010 apparently raised concerns about the cardiac surgeons’ professional behaviour, or lack thereof. But now it is having a knock on effect on mortality rates. Staff reported “a persistent toxic atmosphere and stated that there was a ‘dark force’ in the unit”.

After two alerts from national auditors the trust commissioned an independent review. 

Chief among the report’s recommendations is to restructure the surgical team “with some urgency” and adopt “radical solutions” if needs be.

Make integration work

An acute trust in the West Midlands is racing ahead in the unchartered waters of primary and secondary integration.

Bucking the trend, the Royal Wolverhampton Trust appears to have made a success of getting GPs to jump on board with its integration agenda.

Historically, GPs have always been reluctant to risk their autonomy and hand their contracts over to a seemingly all consuming secondary care provider.

However, against the odds The Royal Wolverhampton seems to have come up with a formula that its local GPs do find attractive. Within just two years of launching its programme the trust could be running almost half the GP practices in town.