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HSJ Health Check


HSJ Health Check: Weekly analysis of the biggest issues in health policy and leadership, from HSJ's expert journalists. The go to place for an independent, informed and immediate take on health and care news.


United Kingdom




HSJ Health Check: Weekly analysis of the biggest issues in health policy and leadership, from HSJ's expert journalists. The go to place for an independent, informed and immediate take on health and care news.





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48,000 hours stuck in an ambulance

This week we discuss the ongoing harm done by long ambulance handover delays and what the new government should do to address this problem. Also more on the health policy experts hired by Wes Streeting to help draw up a ten-year plan for health, and our analysis of his first few days in office. *After this podcast was recorded the health secretary announced he had commissioned former minister, surgeon and academic Lord Ara Darzi to carry out an independent review of NHS performance. More on this story here.* With Dave West, Alison Moore and Annabelle Collins.


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When HSJ met Wes

While the rest of the country was watching the football, HSJ met shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting in a café in Ilford for a wide-ranging interview. On this episode we bring you the highlights from his conversation with Alastair McLellan and James Illman. We also cover the sudden resignation of the Care Quality Commission’s chief executive, the huge leadership challenges facing the beleaguered regulator and why it should be strengthened rather than abolished.


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What’s missing from the manifestos

This week we’re joined by Sally Gainsbury and Leonora Merry from the Nuffield Trust think tank, who help us join the dots on the key issues for the NHS in the election campaign. We cover their response to Wes Streeting’s comments about their manifesto analysis, why the NHS has been notably absent from the election campaign so far and the biggest challenges facing a new government. Also with Annabelle Collins and James Illman.


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Taking A&E back to the 90s

As the election campaign moves into its final weeks, the shadow health secretary has confirmed a huge policy commitment that wasn’t in the manifesto. This week we look at what Wes Streeting’s commitment to hit 95 per cent in A&E performance for the first time in almost a decade would mean for the NHS. We also hear about an ambitious plan to “save 300 lives a year” - and how bosses rubber-stamped a decision to abandon it. With Ben Clover, Lawrence Dunhill and James Illman.


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Live from Confed

This week’s episode comes to you from the NHS ConfedExpo conference in Manchester, where we’re joined by NHS Confederation’s CEO Matthew Taylor and chair Victor Adebowale. We cover Amanda Pritchard’s big speech and the reaction to it, the manifestos, the need for a new government to tackle capital spending, and more. With Annabelle Collins and Dave West.


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Held to ransom

The NHS is facing weeks of disruption after pathology services across south east London were hit by a major cyber attack this week, affecting care from blood tests to transplants. We cover the impact the attack will have on an already pressured system and the big questions facing the NHS and government around strengthening cyber security.


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Return of the control totals

NHS England has announced incentives and penalties in a bid to improve the health system’s financial plans, so this week we discuss what the new regime involves and if it will make any difference to the national £3bn deficit. Also this week we focus on two stories from Birmingham – more bullying concerns at University Hospitals Birmingham and an update on the long-delayed Midland Metropolitan University Hospital, which HSJ revealed is due to open without the funding needed to run it. We also take a look at the latest pledges for the NHS by the political parties as the general election draws nearer. With Nick Carding, Henry Anderson and Emily Townsend.


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What the July election means for the NHS

Rishi Sunak has called a surprise election, so we cover what could be in store for the NHS over the next six weeks and the different scenarios it could face if there is a change is government. Plus, we consider NHS England’s intervention in the ongoing debate about productivity (and how that might affect the service’s ask for extra capital investment) and also the aftermath of NHSE’s massive restructure. With Henry Anderson, Annabelle Collins and Dave West.


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Manchester’s financial meltdown

Greater Manchester ICS is under huge pressure to reduce its deficit after suffering a recent financial collapse. And now the ICS must navigate this without its substantive chief financial officer, who has been seconded to a post within NHS England. We discuss if there is a way out of the red and what this will mean for local care quality. Also this week, a leaked NHSE review that concluded the NHS has a severe shortage of nurses with digital skills.


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CQC inspections become the inspected

The tables have turned for the Care Quality Commission. This week HSJ revealed the government is launching a review of it’s new inspection regime and whether its ratings are properly incentivising care improvements. We discuss what prompted this review, which senior NHS figure is leading it and what it could mean for the regulator. Also this week, a fifth of all of England’s GP premises pre-date 1948 and we discuss how this ageing estate risks hampering the workforce plan.


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What ICB leaders really think

We delve into the detail of HSJ's comprehensive survey of integrated care board leaders, as well as new interventions on the future of ICBs from NHS England and Wes Streeting. From leaders’ biggest worries, and their achievements thus far, to their plans for the future, HSJ Health Check highlights some of the more surprising findings. Also, more on the shadow health secretary's recent comments on tensions between ICBs and foundation trusts, and NHS England's new assessment framework. With Annabelle Collins, Nick Kituno and Dave West.


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Are you going to lose your job?

This year sets the NHS one of its toughest financial challenges as pandemic cash dries up and funding shortfalls deepen. We hear how three integrated care systems are already warning of significant consequences from the current financial requirements, and explore how the NHS plans to break even in 2024-25. With Henry Anderson, Lawrence Dunhill and Nicholas Carding. Send views and questions to annabelle.collins@hsj.co.uk. You can listen to HSJ Health Check on this page, or subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and all the other popular podcast platforms.


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What the coroners say

This week guest host Ben Clover discusses alarming developments in urgent care plus the Silicon Valley firm getting established in the NHS, with HSJ reporters Emily Townsend and Joe Talora.


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Why this winter was (a bit) better in the NHS

2022-23 was probably the worst ever winter for the NHS, after a steep collapse in performance. This year’s been a little better — new figures confirm — but how was this achieved, and what does it mean for coming months? This week’s HSJ Health Check podcast reviews the latest figures on emergency care performance — across A&E waits, ambulance delays and response times, discharge and length of stay. On nearly all measures, services have been better this winter than the year before, but only a little bit, and still well down on 2019 levels, which were already poor. We discuss what the service did to claw back performance, and the prospects for the coming year. With Dave West, Matt Discombe and Alison Moore. Send views and questions to dave.west@hsj.co.uk.


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The latest safety crisis for maternity care

On this episode we discuss the quality of maternity services in the NHS, which have remained firmly in the spotlight. We cover a recent HSJ investigation into delayed inductions of labour and cover the broader challenges facing maternity services amid multiple inquiries and more 'inadequate' CQC ratings. Also more on why families whose babies died in the East Kent maternity scandal are still having to prove legal liability to get any compensation.


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The planning guidance is finally here

With one working day left before the new financial year, the NHS’s instructions for 2024-25 have finally been published. HSJ’s James Illman, Annabelle Collins, and Dave West unpack what's in this year’s guidance and talk more about the sticking points that caused the long delay.


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The £4bn hole in the NHS’s building plans

HSJ revealed this week the cost of building “40 new hospitals” in the NHS has increased by £4bn, so on this episode we dig into what’s driving this and if it will get past the Treasury. Also this week – when PFI deals go wrong and how a fire at the Whittington Hospital in north London has led to a High Court case.


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Scandal at ‘the safest trust in England’

This week we discuss the implications of a long-awaited independent review into a patient safety scandal at Salford Royal Hospital, in which multiple patients were harmed by John Williamson, the former head of the spinal division. We cover why concerns about care quality resurfaced long after the trust concluded its review in 2016 and why it failed to properly investigate at the time. Also more on news that an Australian tech firm backed by one of China’s richest people is set to win the majority of contracts to deploy new AI diagnosis tools across the NHS.


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How to be a top NHS employer

HSJ Health Check debates the new NHS staff survey results, with trust CEO Matthew Winn, survey expert Chris Graham, and HSJ's Nick Kituno. Some key findings are improved this year, but others reveal a service still struggling to recover from the pandemic. There's also an alarming increase in reports of discrimination. Meanwhile, Matthew and Chris argue there can be no 'quick fixes' or gaming when it comes to being a good employer, so leaders should focus on looking after staff and making longer-term improvements. Staff survey results should also be used more when it comes to judging trusts nationally, they say.


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The systems most reliant on the private sector

There has been a huge increase in the proportion of treatments done by the private sector compared to before the pandemic, and for the first time we’ve worked out which parts of the country send most patients to independent hospitals. Also, more on news that NHS capital budgets have been raided to pay for staff pay rises and the cost of strikes. Read our full regional analysis of private sector use at the following link: www.hsj.co.uk/quality-and-perfor…ls/7036620.article