The Week, 2 September 2016

2 September 2016

In May of this year, the British Medical Association (BMA) encouraged its members to support a new contract for junior doctors, following months of negotiations. This week the BMA announced plans for four five-day strikes later this year in protest at the contract, after junior doctors voted to reject the deal in July.

Amy Finch, Research Manager and Head of Education

Reformer of the week

Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Prime Minister, for announcing that the Government will put racial disparity in public sector outcomes under the spotlight in areas such as the health, education, welfare and criminal justice.

Reactionary of the week

The British Medical Association, whose flip-flop on the junior doctors’ contract will damage health outcomes for patients.

Good week for…

Pay rises

On Tuesday, the Resolution Foundation reported early evidence that the social care sector has increased pay in line with the National Living Wage without reducing working hours (though employment reductions and compliance were not considered).

Transparent public services

On Wednesday, the new Information Commissioner was quoted saying the Government “could do more” to ensure private contractors of public services are open to Freedom of Information requests − a practice that currently covers some, not all, private-public contracts.

Pensioner prisons

On Thursday, the Chief Inspector of Prisons was quoted questioning whether the traditional high-secure prison was the right environment to detain the growing proportion of elderly prisoners, many of whom require palliative care.

Bad week for…

Girls’ mental health

On Wednesday, The Children’s Society published its fifth annual report into children’s wellbeing, finding that 11 per cent more girls aged 10 to 15 years are unhappy with their lives than girls that age five years ago.

Public health

On Thursday, the Health Select Committee reported a “growing mismatch between spending on public health and the significance attached to prevention in the NHS 5 Year Forward View” (sic).

Worklessness

Also on Thursday, the Office for National Statistics reported that the number of workless households fell by 0.9 per cent over the last year.

Quotes of the week

“[T]he Government needs to ask whether the NHS needs such a vast direct labour force. Much non-medical work could be contracted out to private sector companies whose staff management and manpower might be more efficient. The ageing population will demand more doctors and nurses, but everything else should be up for review.”

Simon Heffer, writing in The Telegraph on Saturday.

“Historically, the rise of capitalism and the pressure for an ever-broader suffrage went together. This is why the richest countries are liberal democracies with, more or less, capitalist economies… Today, however, capitalism is finding it far more difficult to generate such improvements in prosperity. On the contrary, the evidence is of growing inequality and slowing productivity growth. This poisonous brew makes democracy intolerant and capitalism illegitimate… [T]hose of us who wish to preserve both liberal democracy and global capitalism must confront serious questions.”

Martin Wolf, writing in the Financial Times on Tuesday.

“Mr Hammond’s best move would be to undo the most ill-judged bs of the fiscal strategy he inherited. He has already ditched the target set by his predecessor of reaching a budget surplus by 2020… The next step should be to cancel fiscal tightening planned for 2017-18… Instead there is a case for stimulus, focused on two areas: more public spending on infrastructure and a reversal of the planned cuts to in-work benefits for the low-paid.”

Leader in The Economist on Thursday.

Reform’s week

Media

On Monday, Coin Desk republished a recent blog by Alexander Hitchcock, Researcher at Reform, on how blockchain technology can reduce bureaucracy.

On Wednesday, Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, was quoted in an article in The Telegraph in which he criticised the BMA’s decision to escalate industrial action over junior doctors’ contracts.

On Thursday, Kate Laycock, Researcher at Reform, spoke on BBC Radio 4’s PM, arguing that the junior doctors’ strike is disproportionate, and pointing out that there was no recent vote on industrial action.

Reformer Blog

On Tuesday, Georgia Preece, Intern at Reform, wrote a blog arguing that alarmism over blockchain should be taken with a pinch of salt, and that the technology could be used by the Government to create a more intelligent state.

On Friday, Amy Finch, Research Manager and Head of Education at Reform, wrote a blog questioning why rational arguments on grammar schools are not cutting through with the public.

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