Essential insight into England’s biggest health economy, by Ben Clover

A big appointment?

Since the last London Eye there have been developments on a couple of questions I posed.

NHS Improvement London’s outgoing boss, Steve Russell, has been announced as the new chief executive of Harrogate and District Foundation Trust.

This small but high-performing organisation will be his first job leading an acute provider, although he has experience in hospitals generally, having worked in Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.

Also significant for London will be if Yorkshire reciprocates in sending a senior figure to the capital.

London Eye understands that Professor Clive Kay – who has run Bradford Teaching Hospitals FT for four years and is a radiologist by training – is in the running for the top job at King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust, vacant since the departure of Nick Moberly.

King’s said no interviews have taken place but, if confirmed, the rumours would see another prestigious London trust run by a senior medic (following on from Great Ormond Street and Imperial in recent months).

Peter Herring has been praised in some quarters for his handling of the trust as interim chief since Mr Moberly’s departure. But the fact remains it is in a difficult place by most measures.

London Eye spoke to one senior figure who said not many people would fancy running the trust in its current state.

Lightbulb moment

Another 2018 issue that was expected to end in legal action this year got sorted shortly before 31 December.

Central Surrey Health, a nurse-led social enterprise, got into a legal dispute with Surrey commissioners after it fell out with its partners in an integrated care contract that had been planned to start last year.

The dispute, principally with Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust, was over who would have clinical control of the new arrangements. Central Surrey have been running community nursing and therapy services across the county for some time and senior management balked at ceding control within a new provider alliance deal agreed with Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group. Practically, this came down to which organisation was registered with the Care Quality Commission as the provider of the service.

The court case was due to take place in February and London Eye understands it could have cost the NHS £1m in legal fees.

Neither side will disclose what has been spent so far but Epsom and St Helier – technically a London trust – seems to have won the negotiation. The provider alliance, which also includes two GPs organisations, will be the body registered with the CQC.

The provider group (the Integrated Dorking, Epsom and East Elmbridge Alliance) will soon be replicated on the other half of Epsom and St Helier’s patch, in the London Borough of Sutton.

Hopefully the trust can avoid governance problems on the London side of the border, because the early results from a pilot of the project were impressive.

Long-term plan

The long-term plan was finally released this week and included a section on what legislative change the NHS wanted. One of the requests was for Monitor to be stripped of its market regulator role. This was most notably used in London when Care UK successfully overturned the award of a contract to run an elective centre in north east London.

This was a complicated case that eventually saw the local NHS provider lose the contract it had been awarded, with the CCGs backing down shortly before the appeal was heard.

It will be interesting to see if the direction of travel signalled in the long-term plan – away from competition rules – will let London commissioners be a little bolder.