The Labour party responds to the Department of Health’s large underspend today, government gagging clause commitments are described as “smoke and mirrors”, and live coverage of today’s other news.

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5.20pm: The Foundation Trust Network has issued a comment on the story of the DH’s underspend this year, which has been gathering pace today.

It says: “Several newspapers have suggested today that the Government has deliberately reined back health expenditure in the fourth quarter to avoid a rise in Government borrowing.

“The Government can’t have its cake and eat it. Either the Department spends up to its allocated limit. Or it conclusively, clearly and irrefutably shows why such a large underspend is unavoidable.

“The present situation – where it looks like the Government is deliberately engineering  a growing, backdoor, underspend – is untenable. Even the Conservative-chaired Health Select Committee noted three days ago that Health Department underspends are attracting adverse comment and called for a review of Treasury rules in this area. The size of these latest figures make this case even stronger.”

5.19pm: The DH has published the final ever edition of its “the month” missive. “In the final March 2013 issue of ‘the month’, Sir David Nicholson expresses his continuing pride in NHS staff as he prepares for his new role as Chief Executive of the NHS Commissioning Board. We also bring you updates on people transition, Public Health England, Health and Wellbeing Boards and Healthwatch.”

4.08pm: Rob Findlay, the NHS Gooroo, has published his latest blog analysing elective waiting times on HSJ. He says: “Underlying it all, the total size of the waiting list remains high for the time of year, and the gap over previous years is still growing.”

3.27pm: We have published a story covering NHS Employers’ response to the Francis report, in which it comes down against many of Robert Francis’ more material recommendations.

1.32pm: HSJ’s James Illman has broken further details about the plan to publish performance quality data about individual consultant surgeons in the near future.

1.31pm: Channel 4 news has picked up on HSJ’s revelation of the Department of Health’s large underspend this year. Channel 4’s health correspondent Victoria Macdonald has written a blog on the issue.

12.29pm: The Department of Health has announced new incentives for NHS organisations to give up their land, in an attempt to release land. A statement says: “NHS organisations are to be given financial incentives and operational support to continue and accelerate their contribution to release surplus land for 100,000 homes by 2015.The release of public sector land, to provide new homes, is a priority for government to help the housing market and the wider economy. The NHS is seen as a major contributor to this initiative.”

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11.49am: We have published an online game tool based on the “trust” theme of HSJ’s magazine cover this week. We have a feature on how trust will underpin change in the new NHS, and an opinion piece by Stephen Eames on building trust.

11.40am: Patrick Leahy, a healthcare public affairs professional tweeting on a personal basis, notes: Here is the Lords Scrutiny Committee’s verdict on the competition and procurement regulations:”There is some new detail and analysis on the controversial regulations.

11.04am: Sarah Calkin has broken the news for HSJ that the introduction of 111 has been delayed in large parts of the country, meaning NHS Direct is being relied on as a backup service.

10.58am: The NHS Information Centre today published the latest healthcare workforce census.

Its statement says: “Nearly 1.36 million people (1,358,295) were working for the NHS in England at 30 September 2012 - a 0.2 per cent (3,238) decrease on the same time in 2011. However, the latest headcount represents an increase of approximately 200,000 (16.9 per cent) compared to a decade ago (1,161,483 in 2002) with an average annual increase over the period of 1.6 per cent.”

10.34am: The Times, Today programme and probably others highlighted research today revealing that most doctors admit to prescribing placebo treatments. 

Oxford University researchers carried out an online survey of 783 UK GPs, finding that 97 per cent admitted having used “impure placebos” – eg vitamin pills, antibiotics for viral infections and blood tests or scans to calm patients down.

A further 12 per cent said they had used true placebos such as sugar pills, with no active ingredient in at all.

Could this be something for CCGs to crack down on to make the financial pips squeak, or a cheap way of “treating” patients?

10.33am: The Guardian today carries an interview with U.S. paediatrician Dr Robert Lustig, in which he compares sugar to cocaine and heroin - saying all three substances are addictive and toxic - and argues that it, and not fat, is the real villain in the obesity epidemic.

10.23am: Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has this morning picked up on the news, reported by HSJ yesterday, that the Department of Health is due to record its largest underspend of recent years for 2013-14. ‏@andyburnhammp tweets: “Budget small-print suggests Osborne has raided the #NHS budget AGAIN - this time to the tune of £2.2 billion.

“Budget raid comes on day we learn #NHS has just lost another 834 nursing jobs - taking total to almost 5000 on Cameron’s watch.”

10.13am: The Department of Health has announced what sounds like an important move in the slow process of its development of a value based pricing system.

A statement says: “NICE will take responsibility for assessing the full value of medicines when new pricing arrangements are introduced in 2014 the Government announced today. The government confirmed the plans in its official response to the Health Select Committee’s report on the future role of NICE which has been published today. The move will give NICE a crucial role in the future value-based pricing arrangements for branded medicines. It will allow the body to build on its current drug evaluation processes by giving it broader scope to assess a medicine’s benefits and costs. The aim is to make sure that the price the NHS pays for new medicines is more closely linked to their value to NHS patients and society.

“The announcement comes as NICE is also preparing to take on other new responsibilities. From April, its remit will be extended to cover social care, as well as the NHS and public health. This will assist in the development of better integration of services between different health and care organisations.”

10.11am: We have published a video by the NHS Confederation, on its report about the tough choices facing the service, due to financial pressures.

10.09am: There’s a lively comment thread on David Williams’ exclusive about the commissioning support market from earlier this week – 22 and counting.

Many of the remarks are highly cynical about the whole project, prompting an intervention from commissioning board policy fixer Bob Ricketts. More recent comments have defended the staff currently setting up commissioning support units, and their efforts to make the system work.

Get involved here.

10.07am: To recap from yesterday’s Budget, HSJ’s Crispin Dowler revealed how the Department of Health is this year set to record its biggest underspend of recent years, with no plans for it to be carried over to next year.

10.06am: We have today published a piece on the government’s recent statements about so-called “gagging clauses”. Sarah Calkin reports that lawyers have dismissed the material effect of the statements, although they may help encourage people to be free to speak.

The assurances have been welcomed as a “victory” by some campaigners, but the DH has told HSJ it is does not plan to make any retrospective changes to agreements themselves.

8.16am Good morning, today on HSJ Stephen Eames, chief executive of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust, explains why trust is essential to delivering change in the NHS and how it can be built.

He writes: “Building mutual trust is a Rubik’s cube of interlocking cultures and behaviours and, for me, is always anchored in a local context.”