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The NHS “crisis” has blown itself out after a whirlwind week. On Friday 6 January, the British Red Cross identified a “humanitarian crisis”, leading the organisation to provide its own ambulances to transfer people to and from hospitals. Jeremy Corbyn devoted his six PMQ questions to the NHS on the following Wednesday. Jeremy Hunt gave a statement to the House. Finally Number 10 Downing Street briefed on Friday that it would enforce the existing financial penalties on GPs who do not open for extended hours.

In the middle of all this, Theresa May gave a speech on mental health; various people reported that Number 10 and Simon Stevens are at loggerheads; and (if I may say) the BBC Daily Politics published a film by me on the potential of new technology, including AI, to deliver better care at much lower cost. It was a memorable few days.

Theresa May just about lost I think.  Her speech succeeded in drawing attention to a relatively neglected area of healthcare, which had real value. It did not, however, engage with the real questions of NHS reform: how does the system work together (or not), what drives the system to work in certain ways, what aspects of that system needs to change. For the same reason, she lost the exchange at PMQs, because she did not explain how the over-crowding of hospitals could be solved.  Interestingly, she did then move to an argument on system reform, because longer opening hours for GPs should ease the pressure on hospital admissions. If she continues with these kind of arguments from now on, fantastic.

by Andrew Haldenby, Director, Reform

17th January 2017

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