Make sure you are up to date with the events of the last seven days with our insight into the stories that matter most

Northumbria receives ‘Outstanding’ rating by CQC

According to the Care Quality Commission report which was published on Thursday, Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust is the fourth trust in the country to receive a coveted outstanding rating.

The chief inspector of hospitals, Sir Mike Richards, commented that Northumbria getting an outstanding rating across 20 core services was “remarkable” and “a first” for the health service.

When HSJ spoke to David Evans, Northumbria’s new chief executive, he said the glowing inspection report was down to strong clinical accountability and a quality orientated culture – a familiar theme from chief executives of outstanding trusts.

Northumbria hasn’t been afraid of making potentially controversial changes – last year it centralised services to a new specialist emergency care hospital, and Mr Evans urged other NHS leaders to “grasp the nettle” on tricky reconfigurations.

Trust gets third chief executive in a fortnight

At St George’s University Hospitals in London, staff were told on Tuesday morning that the trust has been forced to suspend its acting chief executive – less than two weeks after the substantive chief executive stood down.

A leaked email revealed Paula Vasco-Knight was suspended last week after serious financial allegations were made against her relating to a role at a previous employer.

The suspension of Ms Vasco-Knight comes after the trust announced last month that substantive chief executive Miles Scott would be standing down. His departure followed weeks of speculation about his future at the troubled trust and almost three weeks of annual leave.

It’s the latest controversy to afflict the scandal-hit trust after its finances collapsed in 2015 shortly after it was awarded foundation trust status.

Ms Vasco-Knight had been working as interim chief operating officer at St George’s before stepping up last month, and was previously chief executive at South Devon Healthcare FT. She resigned there after being accused of nepotism.

Following her suspension, medical director Simon Mackenzie is taking temporary charge to become the trust’s third chief executive in a fortnight.

NHSI reassures capital funding to trusts

Capital funding is usually a pretty remote issue in the big scheme of the NHS, but could become big news in 2016-17.

In recent years there have been repeated raids on NHS capital budgets at a national level to prop up the revenue account.

HSJ has obtained details of dozens of NHS capital schemes deferred from 2015-16, with the money being used to boost the revenue account.

Trusts said they have received guarantees from regulators that the capital funds will be made available in 2016-17 instead, but a statement from NHS Improvement didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence.

Asked if trusts that agreed a capital-to-revenue transfer in 2015-16 would get the capital funding back this year, the regulator said they “will not be disadvantaged”.

The ugly RTT picture

NHS Improvement has launched a £2m project to see how many patients on trust waiting lists for elective procedures are people needing treatment and how many have been misrecorded.

The regulator approved the project at its board meeting in March and will validate waiting list data at 60 providers.

In some cases trusts with large waiting lists have failed to remove patients who have been treated, in others patients have not been included on waiting lists when they should have been.

HSJ’s senior correspondent covering acute care, Ben Clover, says the project is significant: “The validation work’s significance can be gauged from two things: the number of trusts being looked at – 60 is more than a third of the acute sector; and the cost – RTT data costs £3m a year to collect overall, so validation costing £2m is significant.

Earlier this year we revealed there were thousands of patients waiting more than a year for treatment on the waiting lists of trusts that had stopped reporting data to NHS England. Meanwhile, performance on waiting times for elective procedures has declined, with the overall size of the waiting list now above 3.5 million.

HSJ’s expert says the regulator has high hopes for turning this situation around: “NHS Improvement believes that if emergency department performance and the money situation are taken care of, then RTT will take care of itself.

“This looks less and less likely as the overall waiting list stubbornly continues to grow.

Judge terms NHS England’s drug decision for patient ‘nonsense’

Wednesday was a tough day in court for NHS England.

The commissioning body faced a mauling by High Court judge Mr Justice Collins over its decision not to fund a cost effective drug to treat a teenager suffering from severe narcolepsy – a neurological condition that has severe impact on sufferers.

This resulted in a decision by the judge to issue a rare mandatory order that requires NHS England to provide funding for sodium oxybate in a three month trial costing £2,000 – which was all her consultants and legal team were asking for.

Despite this girl’s condition being described as deteriorating, the panel decided she was not an exceptional case – a position the judge said was “nonsense.”

Lawyers for the girl’s family also accused NHS England of discrimination because at least 194 other NHS patients receive funding for the drug and the Department of Health is also funding private prescriptions for sodium oxybate to people whose narcolepsy may have been caused by the swine flu vaccination Pandemrix.