The Week

The Week, 20 October 2017

This week saw examples of public services in need of serious reform. From the NHS failing to hit any waiting time targets, to elite universities becoming more rather than less exclusive, new thinking is necessary to improve.

Emilie Sundorph, Researcher

Reformer of the week

Michael Barber, for continuing to push a value for money agenda in higher education.

Reactionary or the week

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as below.

Good week for…

Modernising GPs

On Monday, the NHS paved the way for a national system through which healthcare providers can procure online consultation services.

Smarter citizen engagement

On Thursday, the Behavioural Insights Team published an annual report detailing their impact, including collaboration with a police force which reduced speeding reoffending by 20 per cent over six months.

Stifling diversity

On Friday, Freedom of Information requests analysed by Rt Hon David Lammy MP revealed that Oxford and Cambridge have made no progress in terms of diversifying student bodies, but actually worsened. A recent Reform report highlighted ways in which top universities can increase diversity.

Bad week for…

NHS waiting times

On Wednesday, an investigation by the BBC revealed that nationally, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have not hit any of their three key targets for 18 months.

Teenage girls

Also on Wednesday, a study revealed that reported self-harm among girls aged 13-16 increased by 68 per cent from 2011 to 2014.

Escaping low pay

On Thursday, the Social Mobility Commission published research showing that only one in six low-paid workers managed to permanently escape low-paid work in the last decade.

Quotes of the week

“Without political leadership, the system reverts to no more than keeping the show on the road, with important decisions mothballed. Once more the opportunity cost of political failures at the top of the system can be measured in further delays in grappling with long overdue reform—and a continuation of unnecessarily poor services for patients.”

Professor Deidre Heenan and John Appleby, on Tuesday.

“Oxbridge take over £800m a year from the taxpayer – paid for by people in every city, town and village. Whole swathes of the country – especially our seaside towns and the ‘left behind’ former industrial heartlands across the North and the Midlands are basically invisible. If Oxbridge can’t improve, then there is no reason why the taxpayer should continue to give them so much money.”

Rt Hon David Lammy MP, on Friday.

“Britain’s flexible workforce gives us global economic advantage, but a 2-tier labour market is now exacting too high a social price. A new approach is needed to break the vicious cycle where low skills lead to low pay in low-quality jobs. Welfare policy should focus on moving people from low pay to living pay. Government should join forces with employers in a new national effort to improve progression and productivity at work. Without concerted action, Britain will become more socially divided and social mobility will continue to stall.”

Rt Hon Alan Milburn, on Thursday.

Reform’s Week

The Reformer Blog

On Wednesday, Tracey Hemming, Executive Headteacher for the Middlesex Learning Partnership, wrote for the Reformer Blog offering possible solutions to the challenges facing teacher recruitment and retention.

On Thursday, Maisie Borrows, Researcher at Reform, argued that devolution could help public services to achieve value for money and deliver better outcomes for local populations.


In the coming months, Reform will host several events, with speakers including Rt Hon Sir Keir Starmer MP, Peter Dowd MP, Bernard Jenkin MP and Rt Hon Justine Greening MP.