The Week

The Week, 26 January 2018

This week, Boris Johnson MP called for an extra £5 billion to be spent on the NHS. But, as Philip Collins argues in The Times today, ministers should tell the NHS reform story better, highlighting improvements in GP care and technology. A Reform report this week provides options for how new, larger GP premises can be delivered.

Alexander Hitchcock, Research Manager

Reformer of the week

NHS England for concluding that one-third of 111 calls will be handled by robots within two years, in a leaked report. Reform research shows that this can not only provide administrative efficiencies, but also help send patients to the most appropriate clinician.

Reactionary of the week

The Ministry of Justice for failing to secure value for money when procuring its tagging contracts, with the Public Accounts Committee describing it as a “catastrophic waste of public money”. This follows Reform research that questioned the tagging procurement process, including the splitting of contracts and supplier engagement.

Good week for…


On Thursday, official figures showed that the employment rate is at a record high of 73.5 per cent.

Ethical artificial intelligence

On Thursday, Theresa May MP spoke of the importance of “work[ing] closely with international partners to build a common understanding of how to ensure the safe, ethical and innovative deployment of Artificial Intelligence.”

Economic growth

On Friday, Office for National statistics revealed fourth quarter 2017 growth to be 0.5 per cent, which was faster than economists had predicted.

Bad week for…

Public-private partnerships

On Monday, John Trickett MP argued that a Labour government would end outsourcing “within hours” of coming to power. This followed Baronness Chakrabarti arguing that “life and death” services including hospital cleaning contracts would be nationalised under a Labour government.

GCSE results

On Thursday, results showed a 29 per cent increase on last year in the number of schools that did not make enough progress on improving pupil performance.

Rough sleeping

On Thursday, it was revealed that the number of people sleeping on the streets has risen for the seventh consecutive year, up 15 per cent on 2016.

Quotes of the week

“You never can, or would never want to, actually link what we spend on health to what we happen to raise from a particular tax, any serious attempt at hypothecation is almost bound to end up being little more than an exercise in deceiving the voters”

Paul Johnson, writing in The Times on Monday.

“For what would every cancer patient want? To know that the best, the latest science was being used – wherever in the world it was developed, whoever began it. What else do they want? They need to know they have a community around them—supporting and caring. Being practical and kind. For while doctors look at the big picture, we can all be a part of the human-sized picture. Seamus Heaney’s last words were: do not be afraid. I am not afraid, but I am fearful that this new and important approach may be put into the ‘too difficult’ box. But I also have such great hope”

Baroness Jowell, speaking in the House of Lords on Thursday.

“Where does this leave PFI? If the government can specify and monitor the contract, can be confident that the private sector will deliver, cannot find a superior organisational form and wants to bind itself to delivering the service over the term of the contract, then it can make good sense. The argument that the government should finance itself through direct borrowing, because it can borrow more cheaply, is flawed: the government’s discount rate needs to include the implicit call on the taxpayer. This leaves a restricted case for PFI, but a far from worthless one. However, PFI must not be used simply to shift a liability off the balance sheet. That is a swindle and, as such, quite disgraceful”

Martin Wolf, writing in the Financial Times on Thursday.

“The thing that should frustrate ministers and advisers is that the NHS is changing but this message is inaudible above the noise of the current crisis. The NHS five-year forward view is a riot of acronyms and jargon which, as a public service, I have read and translated into English. The policy of personalisation, by which people tending long-term conditions are given control of their own budgets, is a quiet revolution about which the government should shout. Babylon, the online GP service, has its teething problems but it is a fine idea”

Philip Collins, writing in The Times on Friday.

Reform’s week


On Wednesday, Reform launched ‘A design diagnosis: reinvigorating the primary care estate‘, which finds that private sector finance can upgrade the primary care estate at value for money to the taxpayer. The report was supported by Assura.

Reformer blog

On Wednesday, Daniel El-Gamry, Researcher at Reform, wrote an interactive blog on this week’s Reform report: ‘A design diagnosis: reinvigorating the primary care estate’.

Also on Wednesday, Jonathan Murray, CEO, Assura, wrote a blog detailing how modern GP practices are transforming patient care.

On Thursday, Brian Reynolds, Programme Director, One Public Estate, wrote a blog on how a coordinated approach to the estate can improve health facilities and deliver affordable homes for NHS workers.

On Friday, Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive, The Russell Group, wrote a blog on the role of universities in nurturing diverse young talent.

On Friday, Dr Sue O’Connell, CEO, Community Health Partnerships, wrote a blog detailing the role public-private partnerships have in investing in the primary care estate.


On Saturday, Emilie Sundorph, Researcher at Reform, was quoted in Education Technology arguing that technology can improve education and save schools money in the long-run.

On Monday, Alexander Hitchcock, Research Manager at Reform, wrote an article in City AM pointing out that NHS trusts received a bailout last year, while Carillion was allowed to fail.

On Wednesday, Andrew Haldenby, Director of Reform, wrote an article in The Times arguing that Boris Johnson was wrong to demand more money for the NHS before it reformed.

On Wednesday, Maisie Borrows, Researcher at Reform, wrote an op ed for the HSJ on how private investment can transform the primary care estate.

AI in health report

Reform’s recent publication, Thinking on its own: AI in the NHS’, authored by Eleonora Harwich, Head of Digital and Technological innovation, and Kate Laycock, former Senior Researcher, was covered in several media outlets including:

Digital Health


Digital Health




On TuesdayReform held a policy Roundtable with Anneliese Dodds MP, Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury, on how to build a sustainable tax base to fund public services. On Thursday, Anneliese wrote a Reformer blog on how to design a fair and effective tax system.

On FridayReform hosted a panel event on the role of universities to promote social mobility with:

• David Lammy MP, Labour Member of Parliament for Tottenham.

• Anne-Marie Canning, Director of Social Mobility and Student Success, King’s College London.

• Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive, The Russell Group.

• Professor Vikki Boliver, Director of Research—Professor and Deputy Head of School, School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University.