So, the Tories have now realized that their system of internal competition in the NHS hasn’t worked. The replacement of clinical commissioning groups with an integrated care system is to be welcomed but many issues remain unaddressed.

This is the latest episode in an endless series of reforms of the NHS. It comes at a bad time with doctors and nurses exhausted by COVID-19.

These reforms will do nothing to fill the 100,000 vacancies in the NHS, a problem that is about to be exacerbated by new immigration laws making it more difficult to recruit form the European Union.

Our love for the NHS has not encouraged politicians to look at the waste that goes on both in bureaucracy and in procurement where some suppliers regularly scalp the service.

But the main issue that has been dodged once again is how we are going to pay for social care. Back in 2011 Andrew Dilnot proposed a #35,000 cap on care costs. Other possibilities are compulsory social insurance or straight state funding. Both parties are guilty of lacking the courage to grasp this nettle.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, says proposals will come later this year. We’ll see.

Meanwhile don’t think this will be the last round of health reforms. The Hancock reforms make ministers more responsible for the running of the health service. That will be until the next big scandal blows up when there will be a quick move to distance politicians from direct management once again.


No, I’m not still on the topic of health, these docs are documentaries made by the BBC. The new Director General, Tim Davie, has signaled a scaling back on the production of such programmes. It will no longer be sufficient to claim merit for documentaries that only attract small audiences.

This is a dangerous road for the BBC to go down. Constantly criticized by a self-interested press, one of its main defences of the licence fee is that it allows it to make programmes without slavish regard for the audience figures.


A couple of interesting guests from Merseyside were in the Downtown Den this week.

One of them was Liverpool Labour councillor Barry Kushner. He is hoping to be chosen as the party’s candidate to succeed Joe Anderson as mayor. He joins Acting Mayor Wendy Simon, former Deputy Mayor Ann O’Byrne and a former Hackney councillor Jon Burke in vying for the post. The choice is expected in early March.

But he was in the Den to talk about his current responsibilities as Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration. He had encouraging reports on current schemes like the Edge Lane film project and the Festival Gardens site.

Following a question from Lucy O’ Connor  from the event sponsor Crossfields about the need for greater cooperation between the public and private sector, Kushner reiterated the frequently heard plea for colleges to deliver with greater regard for the actual needs of business.

“We are bezzie mates” was the message of Steve Rotheram when he entered the Den. The Liverpool City Region Mayor was addressing claims of division between himself and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham over the pandemic. While Burnham has been locked in a battle with Whitehall, the sider Liverpool area has cooperated over issues like mass testing and lock down. Rotheram observed that Greater Manchester had been under restrictions for longer and the pair were working closely together. Evidence of this was a planned joint trade delegation to Ireland shortly.

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