The Week

The Week, 17 March 2017

The benefits of artificial intelligence in healthcare are undeniable. It can increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of the system through better diagnosing, prevention and usage of drugs. This week has focused on a sensitive area of the debate, which relates to the use of patient data to inform these algorithms. Academics and companies have argued over issues of governance and consent. This shows the importance of the public debate around data ethics. Government should play a leading role in this debate to make sure these public-private partnerships continue to deliver cutting edge services and improve patient outcomes, without endangering the public’s privacy.

Eleonora Harwich, Researcher


David Mowat MP, for proposing to scale up general practices, which would not only improve the diversity of services offered but also the general patient experience. Please read our report on reform in general practice.


Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, for his U-turn on national insurance contributions for the self-employed, which would have made for a fairer tax system.

Good week for…

Cost-effectiveness of healthcare

On Monday, research carried out by the Harvard Medical School revealed that doctors who spend more on hospitalised patients do not reduce their patients’ chances of being readmitted or dying, when compared to doctors who spend less.


Also on Monday, Public Health England announced that it will increase funding to alcohol and drug prevention programmes and on Wednesday, Marcus Jones, Minister for Local Government, confirmed that the Government will give greater flexibility to councils to prioritise homelessness prevention. A focus on prevention reduces future expenditure on services and most importantly delivers better outcomes for citizens.

Curbing financial crime

On Wednesday, Simon Kirby, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, unveiled his plan to create a new Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision and to update regulations in order to clamp down on money laundering in the UK.

Bad week for…

Digital skills

On Tuesday, Ciaran Martin, director of the National Cyber Security Centre warned that the skills shortage in the UK leaves companies exposed to the threats of cyber crime.

Wage growth

On Wednesday, despite extremely low levels of unemployment, wage growth is weak, which affects living standards.

Inter-generational fairness

On Thursday, it was reported that teams of professionals are often employed by the richest families to ensure their “dynastic wealth”, hampering equality of opportunity and social mobility.

Quotes of the week

“We need prisons that are safe, get offenders off drugs and into education and work. That is why we have embarked on the most significant prison reform agenda in a generation.”

Sam Gyimah, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation, delivering a speech at the Independent Monitoring Board’s National Conference on Saturday.

“We keep seeing pots of money thrown at different parts of the NHS and social care system, but what we need is a long-term sustainable solution and we will continue to press Government for this.”

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Select Committee, writing for Politics Home, on Tuesday.

“We should all be thinking hard now about generating greater efficiencies in day-to-day school spending to follow up on the achievements in capital spending. The best academy trusts are doing so already. We need to benchmark all school spending against the performance of the most efficient and ask why their innovations aren’t being more widely adopted. Given how high our deficit remains, and given how much of the spending strain has been taken by other areas, including local government, prisons, the police and social care, schools do need to show that they understand the need for further reform.”

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, former Secretary of State for Education, writing in The Times on Friday. Please read our report on academy chains.

Reform’s Week


On Wednesday, Reform held a roundtable on the devolution of public services led by Jim McMahon MP, Shadow Minister for Local Government and Devolution.

On Thursday, Reform hosted a research roundtable on the funding of social care.


On Tuesday, Danail Vasilev, Researcher at Reform, wrote an article in Public Finance on the role of deferred payment agreements to fund social care.

On Friday, Louis Coiffait, Head of Education at Reform, appeared on ITV News to argue that many schools can achieve better value for money within their existing budgets.


On Monday, Danail Vasilev argued that allowing more people to borrow from councils against their housing wealth would be a sensible short-term response to the social care funding crisis.

On Tuesday, Professor Dame Carol Black DBE, Expert Adviser on Health and Work to NHS England and Public Health England, argued that employers and employees must work together to help those who are not wholly fit to stay in fulfilling work for longer.

Also on Tuesday, Sir David Dalton, Chief Executive Officer of Salford Royal and Pennine Acute Trusts, wrote on how better care can be achieved for less money by the NHS.

On Thursday, Andrew Haldenby, Director of Reform, argued that public debate around the budget and the NHS is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to make her fiscal plans clearer to voters.