The Gary Walker furore continues and the rest of today’s news

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2.50pm The Treasury is looking at George Eliot Hospital Trust’s plans to bring in a commercial partner to ensure its long term financial viability. The Midlands and East strategic health authority cluster signed off the plans last December, but despite the trust’s optimism that the deal could be done within a year, nothing has happened for two months.

HSJ has learned that the Treasury is examining the issue, and that there is no fixed timetable for their review.

The trust’s shortlist of bidders, announced a year ago, included Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust franchisees Circle, and a joint bid by Serco and South Warwickshire Foundation Trust.

1.47pm Meanwhile, a new in-depth HSJ briefing on private provider Circle’s first year running Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust is reporting that government interest in the franchise model for struggling NHS hospitals has “waned dramatically”.

1.41pm In an intervention which may play into the current row about NHS targets culture, the government’s former accident and emergency tsar has criticised its continued rigourous enforcement of the four-hour waiting target.

Matthew Cooke, who left the Department of Health in November, told HSJ it had never stopped the target being “pushed very heavily” despite promises to scrap it. He said putting such a focus on the single measure in emergency departments was dangerous.

1.40pm The Guardian’s front page runs with the demand from Britain’s 220,000 doctors for a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks to help tackle the nation’s growing obesity crisis. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has produced a report that calls for collective action by government, the NHS and parents to end the UK’s status as “the fat man of Europe”. The academy’s ten-point recommendation also includes a limit on the numbers of fast food outlets near schools, nutritional standards for hospital food and £300 million to be spent over the next three years on weight management programmes. It is estimated that obesity costs the NHS £5.1 billion each year.

10.25am The Department of Health has announced full details of the panel appointed to run Baroness Neuberger’s independent review of the Liverpool Care Pathway. Among the panel members will be a former Bishop of Oxford, a London School of Economics dean of law, and Times columnist David Aaronovitch.

10.10am Meanwhile, NHS London chief executive Ruth Carnall has used an HSJ comment thread to issue her own response to the Gary Walker scandal. Dame Ruth wrote that she would back a national confidential phoneline for anyone who feels they have been bullied or gagged in relation to patient safety issues.

In response to criticism of current NHS leadership, she added: “I do think we now need to encourage a new generation to lead but that should not mean all our experience is lost/worthless. I hope to make a contribution to the NHS after April . If anyone has experienced any form of ‘gagging’ in respect of patient safety in London please contact me . I will respect whatever confidentiality you need.”

10.00am The Daily Mail splashes with “Now a gag on doctors and nurses”, keeping the Gary Walker furore going with a story reporting that “hundreds of doctors, nurses and NHS managers are being prevented from exposing poor care by  ‘Stalinist’ gagging orders”.

On page six is another interview with former United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust chair David Bowles.

The Mail’s coverage today comes after their splash on Saturday headlined “If he won’t quit just sack him!”, illustrated with a large picture of NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson.

9.48am The FT also carries a front page photo this morning of yesterday’s street protests in Madrid, Spain, against the “regional government’s austerity plans to restructure and part-privatise the healthcare sector, which would see the management of some public hospitals sold off”.

9.40am The Financial Times reports this morning that Atos, the outsourcing firm hired to carry out disability assessment for benefits claimants, has subcontratcted much of the work back to NHS organisations, including University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust, and King’s College Hospital FT. The paper states that critics of the deal believe the decision to subcontract work back to the public sector raises questions about why Atos was needed.

7.40am Good morning, the Department of Health estimates approximately 80 per cent of primary care consultations, two-thirds of emergency hospital admissions and two-thirds of healthcare costs in the UK are related to long-term conditions. As the population ages there will be an increase of people affected by long-term conditions creating a strain on existing health and social services. But a risk stratfiication tool is helping GPs in Leeds to identify where early intervention would benefit patients with long-term conditions - and save money.