The Week, 5 February 2016

5 February 2016

It was revealed this week that the NHS is likely to over spend its budget in 2015-16. For some, the temptation will be to increase central control and limit competition and innovation. The better approach would be to accelerate innovation and embrace change. Vanguard primary care organisations, such as Modality Partnership, show how innovative practice can spread high-value, cost-efficient healthcare.

Alexander Hitchcock, Researcher

Reformer of the week

Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, who quoted: “Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.”

Reactionary of the week

Jim Mackey, chief executive of NHS Improvement, for stating that competition in the NHS was “absolutely not centre-stage” in its response to worsening finances. This ignores evidence showing the positive effects of competition on value for money within hospitals.

Good week for…

Improving general practice

On Monday, it was announced that Modality Partnership, one of the leading providers of primary care in the UK, is in talks to expand from its current base from Birmingham to London.

Economic growth

On Wednesday, it was announced that the UK economy grew at its fastest pace for over a year in January. This was driven by better-than-expected growth in manufacturing and construction.

Breaking the bank

On Thursday, it was reported that the Department of Health may need an “emergency injection of extra money” to cover its overheads, as it is poised to overspend its 2015-16 budget.

Bad week for…

HM Treasury

On Monday, the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee released a report criticising the Government’s plan to improve productivity. It stated: “We question whether the document has sufficient focus and clear, measurable objectives to be called a ‘plan’”.

Value for money in the NHS

On Friday, Lord Carter published a report highlighting severe cost inefficiencies in the NHS, with one in 10 hospital beds being occupied by someone fit to be discharged, poor procurement practices and inefficient staff management. Overall, Lord Carter explained, £5 billion could be saved each year by 2020-21.

Social care

On Friday, it was revealed that private sector social care providers may leave the market.

Quotes of the week

“What would Herbert Hoover, the pioneering US president who excelled at engineering and economics, make of today’s digital society? He would surely be impressed by the range of affordable devices we use each day, from smartphones to tablets. But I do not think he would be surprised by the economic forces that brought all this about. Competition is the lifeblood of today’s telecoms market, spurring innovation, better coverage and fair prices. As President Hoover observed: ‘Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.’”

Sharon White, writing in the Financial Times on Monday

“And there are still huge opportunities to improve capability between police forces, collaborate with other emergency services, and drive better joint working with the criminal justice system. These are the challenges that the next generation of PCCs, elected in May, will need to tackle. And this Government is committed to helping them do so.”

Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary, speaking on Thursday.

“…there is no direct correlation between healthcare spending and outcomes. The priority of Jeremy Hunt, the current health secretary, must be to get more out of the NHS with the money he has been promised.”

Leader in the Times on Friday.

“My experience of the NHS and hospitals internationally is that high-quality patient care and sound financial management go hand in hand. To improve the quality of care, hospitals must grasp resources more effectively, especially staff, which account for more than 60 pence of every pound hospitals spend.”

Lord Carter, Operational productivity and performance in English NHS acute hospitals, published on Friday.

Reform’s week

On Tuesday, Reform held a policy dinner with Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister for Community and Social Care, to explore the future of health and care integration under devolution.

On Wednesday, Reform held a policy roundtable in partnership with Prospects. The roundtable, led by Sam Gyimah MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Childcare and Education, explored how to improve early years education.


On Thursday, Reform published Working welfare: a radically new approach to sickness and disability benefits. This is the second report of three in Reform’s series on sickness and disability benefits. It details the design of an improved sickness and disability benefit system, including the benefit rate, gateway and conditionality regimes.

Media coverage

Working welfare received written coverage in the Daily Mail, the Sun, CityAM and the Spectator.

The report also received radio coverage. Charlotte Pickles, Senior Research Director at Reform, appeared on LBC Radio and BBC Radio Wales to discuss the report. Ed Holmes, Senior Researcher at Reform, appeared on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio Stoke.

Ed Holmes and Hannah Titley, Researcher at Reform, also published opinion articles in Conservative Home and Prospect magazine respectively, detailing the need to reform the sickness and disability benefits system.

The Reformer Blog

The five contributions to the Reformer Blog this week all discussed aspects of Reform’s latest report, Working welfare: a radically new approach to sickness and disability benefits.

On Thursday, Ed Holmes wrote a blog providing an overview of the problems with the current sickness and disability benefits system and an outline of Reform’s proposed solutions.

Also on Thursday, Hannah Titley wrote a blog focusing in more detail on the perverse incentives associated with the current sickness and disability benefit rates and the advantages of a single out-of-work benefit.

Also on Thursday, Ben Dobson, Research Assistant at Reform, wrote a blog focusing in more detail on the problems with the current gateway to sickness and disability benefits, highlighting how Reform’s proposed model would address these issues.

On Friday, Stephen Evans, Deputy Chief Executive at the Learning & Work Institute, wrote a blog providing his opinion on the key proposals of Reform’s latest report, covering the benefit rate, gateway, and conditionality regimes and support services.

Also on Friday, Professor Roy Sainsbury, Director of the Social Policy Research Unit at the University of York, wrote a blog also discussing the key arguments from Reform’s latest paper.



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