The Week, 15 January 2016

15 January 2016

In the week of the first doctors’ strike in 40 years, much attention was devoted to how technology will transform the health service for doctors and patients. An NHS England/Reform conference on Tuesday showed the Government’s commitment to a digital NHS which will lead to far fewer traditional GP appointments and hospital admissions. On Thursday, George Freeman, Minister for Life Sciences, committed to faster adoption of new technology in the NHS.

Hannah Titley, Researcher

Reformer of the week

Prime Minister David Cameron, delivering a comprehensive speech on the Government’s “Life Chances Strategy” on Monday. He focused on policies to tackle the causes rather than symptoms of poverty, placing choice and competition at the heart of the Government’s agenda to drive up public service standards.

Reactionary of the week

Central and local government, who on Tuesday were reported to be failing to coordinate £350 million of local welfare funding. The Work and Pensions Committee concluded that better co-ordination is needed to prevent severe hardship.

Good week for…

Mental health services

On Monday, David Cameron MP promised a “revolution” in mental health treatment in England, assigning £1 billion to improve mental health service provision in hospitals and communities.

School efficiency

On Tuesday, the Department for Education published a “school efficiency metric tool” which allows schools to compare their financial efficiency with similar schools.

Online technology in the NHS

On Thursday, George Freeman MP announced the introduction of free Wi-Fi in NHS buildings and commended efforts by some hospitals to introduce tablets to replace paper.

Bad week for…

Industrial harmony

On Tuesday, junior doctors went on strike over the proposed changes to pay and working hours. The next strike is planned for 26 January if negotiations are unsuccessful.

Local welfare provision

Also on Tuesday, a National Audit Office (NAO) report revealed that local councils do not measure the effectiveness of their spending on local welfare provision or understand the consequences of reducing this provision.

Workforce planning

On Wednesday, the NAO reported a significant increase in government expenditure on temporary staff in 2011-12. The report highlights the need for strategic workforce planning to drive down dependency on temporary staff.

Quotes of the week

“Sometimes we can make politics sound very complicated, but for me it all comes back to a simple ambition. To give every child the chance to dream big dreams, and the tools—the character, the knowledge and the confidence that will let their potential shine brightly. So for people in Britain who are struggling today, our mission as a government is to look each parent and child in the eye, and say, ‘Your dreams are our dreams. We’ll support you with everything we’ve got.’”

David Cameron MP, delivering a speech on the Government’s Life Chances Strategy on Monday

“Making sure the NHS is always leading the world in adopting innovations is one of my main priorities as minister, especially when it comes to adopting new technology across the system. In a recent speech to the Association of Medical Research Charities, I described data and technology as the “oil that flows through a modern health service”. That’s why I introduced my Patient Data Bill in the last Parliament with the first ever fully updated integrated patient record passed into law last year. Also, I am delighted to support the hugely impressive push by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to introduce tablets to replace paper”

George Freeman MP, writing for the Department of Health on Thursday

“Councils provide discretionary local welfare support, but increasing numbers are stopping doing so, and less is being spent overall now than in 2013. The consequences of creating this gap in provision are not understood, either in terms of impact on vulnerable people or of creating potentially costly additional care or medical needs in the longer term.”

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, commenting on an NAO report on Tuesday

Reform’s week

On Sunday, Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show to discuss the proposed reforms to junior doctors’ contracts, arguing that they are a reasonable and necessary step towards achieving a seven-day NHS.

On Tuesday, Reform held a joint conference with NHS England exploring the potential for NHS reform presented by technology. Tracey Grainger, Head of Digital Primary Care Development at NHS England, opened the conference with a keynote speech, which was followed by two panel discussions.

On Wednesday, Reform held a policy roundtable to discuss the potential for technology to improve public sector productivity. The session, supported by O2, was led by Tony Singleton OBE, Director of the G-Cloud and Digital Commercial Programme at the Government Digital Service.

The Reformer Blog

On Friday, Eleonora Harwich, Researcher at Reform, wrote a blog highlighting the merits of using more flexible metrics to measure success in prisons.

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