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.

Stevens’ ‘ramp it up’ advice

HSJ bounced between very immediate and the unusually long term when we spoke to Simon Stevens for a long interview at the end of last week.

On the former, the NHS England chief showed frustration at an immediate difficulty with getting the waiting list under control.

Our lead story took us to the longer term, with priorities revealed for outcomes improvements over a 10 year time frame.

In a leader column HSJ editor Alastair McLellan explains this may be part of an expectations management exercise: In the short term, funding is still pretty constrained and the NHS will be able to do little but try to keep the show on the road. Politicians and others can be assuaged to a degree with more ambitious improvements promised in the longer term. To make a reality of those loftier ambitions, taxpayers and Parliament will have to stump up for a better funding settlement in a few years’ time.

Hancock’s D-day

The new health and social care secretary Matt Hancock used his first speech to highlight the lack of BME NHS leaders.

He said, “Diversity is critical. In many areas diversity is thriving. But not everywhere. And speaking frankly, the NHS leadership community must do more to reflect the wider workforce.”

He also singled out workforce as one of his three early priorities in the role, alongside technology and prevention, echoing comments made in his first HSJ column last week, gave his backing to the current review of NHS targets, said new funding should be focused on tech, and supported the expansion of GP at Hand.

Considering NHS staff survey results “horrifying”, his new implementive goals seem to be clear. 

Misdirection and manifest errors 

The Department of Health and Social Care was taken to court over allegations of improper behaviour during the awarding of a £730m contract to deliver medical equipment to the NHS. 

DHL Supply Chain, which has run the NHS Supply Chain service since 2006, claimed the DHSC has breached equal treatment and transparency rules under procurement law, and accused the department of “misdirection and manifest errors”.

In a letter to DHSC, DHL Supply Chain claimed that Unipart, to whom the contract was awarded, has “limited experience” in the healthcare and life sciences sectors, and “appears not to operate at scale on projects of this complexity”.

DHL Supply Chain’s current contract for logistics will expire by April 2019 at the latest.

Civil servants spending spree on consultants

There has been a push to reduce spending on management consultants in the health service over the last few years.

So, the irony of the Department of Health and Social Care almost tripling its spending on consultancy in 2017-18 will not be lost on underpressure NHS managers.

The DHSC’s newly published annual accounts reveal £12.4m was spent on consultancy services in 2017-18, compared to £4.5m in 2016-17.

The revolving door of CCG performance

The clinical commissioning group ratings for 2017-18 are out and there are some surprises hidden in there.

NHS England said the ratings this year were a slight improvement.

The number of CCGs rated inadequate in the last financial year compared to the prior one, dropped from 23 to 18.

However, underneath these national numbers there is significant variation in local ratings. More than two fifths of CCGs changed their ratings, with 46 getting better and 42 getting worse.

Given these swings, it seems for every CCG that improves its rating, another one gets worse. One could say it’s a revolving door.

A Chinese takeaway

A partnership of two “outstanding” foundation trusts, a council and an architecture firm have signed a deal with a Chinese real estate firm which could be worth millions for the NHS.

Northumbria Healthcare FT, the Christie FT, Northumberland County Council and Building Design Partnership have signed the contract for the first stage of a collaboration with the Rongqiao Group.

The deal will see NHS and council staff, acting under the NHS Northumbria International Alliance, supporting the company to build 10 new hospitals in China.

Community services lose out

A well repeated mantra in HSJ of late has been the neglect of the NHS’s new Cinderella service. Following the Liverpool community services scandal, Carter report and abandoned forward view, the underfunding of community services has come in to sharp focus over the past few months.

The figures showed a £300m decrease for acute, mental health, community and ambulance services during 2017-18 compared to 2016-17, despite an increase in funding for all three other areas.

It seems that once again Cinderella has failed to make it to the ball.