Weekly updates and essential insight into the NHS in the South West, by Will Hazell

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Introducing Deep South

This is the first edition of HSJ’s new email briefing on the NHS in the South West of England.

Deep South will take an in-depth weekly look at a region which is one of the NHS’s most innovative, but also one of its most turbulent. My scope will include the cities of Bristol and Bath, through Wessex and Dorset, and all the way down the peninsular to Lizard Point.

Please get in touch with any suggestions about what you’d like to see covered and any story tip offs: will.hazell@emap.com

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G’day mate

Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has recruited a new chief executive, it was confirmed last week. And recruiters had to go pretty far afield – all the way to Australia in fact.

Kathy Byrne, until recently the head of Health Support Queensland and deputy director general at the Queensland Department of Health, will take over at the end of next month.

Royal Cornwall has experienced high turnover in its top team of late. The previous (interim) chief exec, Bill Shields, stepped down in October for “personal and family reasons”. His departure added to an already substantial outflow of senior managers in 2015, including the trust’s HR director, company secretary, interim chief operating officer and interim director of financial recovery.

The organisation would undoubtedly benefit from a bit of permanence at the top. It has struggled on accident and emergency performance and is awaiting a CQC inspection report which insiders expect will be critical, not to mention its financial shortfall.

There are echoes of the top team’s instability in the wider health system, too.

Kernow CCG is grappling with an unexpected deficit and is the subject of NHS England legal directions.

Joy Youart, the CCG’s chief executive, remains suspended from the organisation (for reasons which have not been explained) pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Peninsula Community Health, the social enterprise responsible for delivering adult community health services, will wind up shortly because it is financially unsustainable.

Ms Byrne and fellow leaders in Cornwall have their work cut out.

Bristol acute in children’s services talks

I’ve learned - and reported for HSJ - that University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust is in talks with a mental health trust and two social enterprises about teaming up to bid for a children’s community services contract in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

The trust is in discussion with Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership, Sirona Care and Health CIC, and Bristol Community Health CIC.

The three non acute providers are already set to start delivering the services on an interim basis for one year from April. The incumbent, North Bristol Trust, is pulling out to concentrate on its acute services.

I understand that University Hospitals Bristol mulled bidding for the interim contract, but was put off by the risk and complexity of transferring the employment of 700 staff, and then potentially transferring them back out of the organisation one year later.

A long term contract, and the opportunity to join up patient pathways (University Hospitals Bristol provides inpatient paediatrics in the city) is unsurprisingly a much more appealing proposition.

Yeovil loan

Yeovil District Hospital Foundation Trust has received a £23m loan from the Department of Health, it has been confirmed to me.

The loan will cover its £18.4m deficit expected for the end of 2015-16 and some additional capital expenditure, including the roll out of an electronic health record.

The trust is a high profile vanguard site. Arguably the loan underlines what the vanguard scheme is all about – the organisation urgently needs to redesign its care because it is fundamentally unsustainable.

The deficit does hammer home the difficult task before providers of balancing extreme day to day pressures with the need to reform.

It might also raise eyebrows over the process for allocation of capital and transformation funds this year – is this from the vanguard-alloted transformation fund, or elsewhere?