Public services are for the public, not the providers

18 May 2015

The Government’s first public services announcement of this Parliament is an uncompromising statement of reform. David Cameron set it out in terms in his NHS speech this morning. More competition and more private sector delivery (but not a complete “privatisation” as some have claimed). Wholescale changes in the delivery of services so that GPs, hospitals and other services work together and prevent ill health in the first place. As a result, much improved access and speed of treatment without the need for spending increases (except to keep pace with the rise in population).

On the morning of the speech, a second group of NHS leaders in a month wrote to a newspaper (link £) arguing that care will suffer without a much more generous spending settlement. The Prime Minister gave the clearest possible answer in his speech: “In return the NHS must step up. There is no choice between efficiency savings and quality of care.” Like every other public service, the NHS will now need to look for those ideas that improve outcomes and save money at the same time. Rather like the Police Federation in the last Parliament, the authors of these letters may not realise that the Government is serious this time.

Given the pro-reform statements by Labour figures last weekend, the new Parliament really has started with a bang, in reform terms at least.

Andrew Haldenby, Director, Reform

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