Recent speculation has hinted towards Health Secretary Sajid Javid shaking up ‘patchy’ NHS trust coverage through trust reforms and academy-style hospitals, in a move described by the NHS Confederation as “very unhelpful”.
The speculated proposals would be detailed in a whitepaper later this year and would seek to alter NHS leadership in order to provide greater autonomy to health bosses. This, it is hoped, would then allow the NHS to handle post-pandemic waiting lists better.
In particular, NHS trusts performing ‘below par’ would be targeted with intervention.
The rumoured changes have been compared in media reports to those made to education under the Tony Blair administration, where schools rated inadequate by Ofsted were forcibly converted into academies.
In the hospital context, this could see leading NHS managers brought in to take charge of struggling hospitals.
The proposals are still said to be in very early stages, but the suggestion of further significant NHS reforms at an increasingly busy time for the health service has sparked concern and further questions among some within the NHS.
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “This kind of speculation is very unhelpful as NHS leaders have spent the past two years grappling with the immense pressures and fall out of Covid-19 and we are already taking forward the biggest legislative reforms to the NHS in a decade.
“A key question that ministers will need to answer is how these new ideas fit into the direction of travel set out in the Health and Social Care Bill that is making its way through Parliament.
"On top of this we are also expecting the imminent publication of a white paper on health service integration which will have major implications for NHS organisations and leadership. These reforms are geared towards empowering local systems to work in partnership so the risk is that these latest ideas undermine this agenda before it has even been fully implemented.
“These ideas also appear to ignore the fact that NHS leaders are already subject to significant checks and balances on their performance through the Care Quality Commission and are continually looking for ways to improve performance.
"We already have the tools in place to empower high performing providers through foundation trust status, as well as tackling under performance through the special measures regime. A number of providers also operate in group models to ensure they are consistently achieving high standards across different providers that are connected to a shared leadership.
“The government owes it to the NHS and wider public to bring coherence to their reform agenda to ensure NHS leaders and their teams are not distracted by ill-thought-through attempts to grab headlines.”