The Week, 6 May 2016

6 May 2016

Yesterday’s local elections were important for public services, as councillors, mayors and police and crime commissioners continue to gain more powers following the 2015 Spending Review. The devolutionaries’ ambition to increase innovation, competition and choice in the public sector is commendable. If it is to be achieved, one question that must be addressed is how devolved administrations are held to account for the services they commission. This was a key finding of a report published by the Public Accounts Committee this week, quoted below.

Amy Finch, Research Manager and Head of Education

Reformer of the week

The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, which is working with Google to develop systems that predict the development of some fatal diseases, enabling public services to better prevent them.

Reactionaries of the week

Thousands of parents, who took their six and seven-year-old children out of school on Tuesday in protest at national assessments. There is evidence that the alternative of assessments run by teachers is susceptible to unconscious bias, leading the abilities of pupils from poor backgrounds to be systematically underestimated and risking that they fall behind their richer peers due to insufficient challenge.

Good week for…

Clarity on patient choice

On Sunday, the Department of Health released a series of leaflets outlining, among other things, the choices available to people over where to receive care, such as a GP appointment or hospital treatment.

Predictive patient data

On Wednesday, it was revealed that the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust will give Google access to 1.6 million NHS patient records to develop a programme that predicts who will develop kidney diseases.

Cybercrime

On Thursday, it was reported that police failed to prevent a hacker from stealing and selling email login details of an estimated 2.4 million people in Britain.

Bad week for…

School attendance

On Tuesday, thousands of pupils skipped school because their parents wished to boycott national assessments.

Accountability

On Wednesday, the Public Accounts Committee reported that too few Departmental Accounting Officers had used formal channels to raise concerns about poor value for money from government spending, such as support for Kids Company.

Access to the NHS

On Thursday, a survey of 286 care home managers was covered by The Times. The survey found that 44 per cent believe dementia patients in care homes do not have adequate or timely access to mental health services or secondary care.

Quotes of the week

“SATs are absolutely vital indicators of whether a child is falling behind. Testing at the age of seven gives parents and schools a chance to get it right − an opportunity to ensure that child is not permanently disadvantaged… This is particularly relevant for kids who are already disadvantaged socio-economically. 80 per cent of the difference in GCSE results between rich and poor children is determined by the age of seven.”

Harriet Maltby, writing in Prospect Magazine on Wednesday

“Over the years, government has increased in complexity. Changes to the way that government implements policies and delivers services include: increased devolution to local areas and delivery bodies, greater outsourcing, use of government companies, crosscutting programmes across departments and delivery through central initiatives. These developments have increased the complexity of delivery relationships and responsibilities within government, and also challenged the traditional model of accountability…

“In general, however, government has not provided enough clarity about the changes required or made to accountability arrangements to match changes in delivery methods.”

Public Accounts Committee, reporting on Wednesday

The Reformer Blog

On Tuesday, Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, wrote a blog arguing that NHS leaders will be more able to engage in strategic thinking about reform if the target framework and NHS regulatory overhead was much reduced or even abolished.

On Wednesday, Charlotte Pickles, Deputy Director and Head of Research at Reform, wrote a blog ahead of the PCC elections arguing that they were about more than they seemed.

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