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UK Public Services ‘Being Pushed To Breaking Point’

Posted: 17/03/2017

The government has been called upon to control its spending more effectively and also simultaneously maintain the quality and standard of public services like prisons, hospitals, adult social care and schools.

The latest Performance Tracker, compiled by the Institute for Government (IfG) and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPHA), has revealed that hospitals and adult social care in particular are being pushed to breaking point, while prisons have been pushed beyond it.

Pressures such as routinely waiting longer for critical hospital services like cancer treatment and A&E, increased delays in transferring people from hospital into social care, and sharp rises in violence in prisons and assaults on staff in the past few years were factors identified.

Some prisons have become so violent that inmates are opting to stay in their cells for 24 hours a day in order to protect themselves. According to the BBC, standards at a prison based near Wolverhampton have dropped so far that people are choosing self-isolation in order to stay safe. A report into the prison found that some inmates were unable to exercise, take showers, or access work or food for fear of repercussions.

“The deterioration in performance at Featherstone isn't acceptable, but reflects the real pressures which the system has faced over the last few years,” Head of the National Offender Management Service, Michael Spurr was quoted by the news source as saying. “The government has set out a clear plan for reform in the Prison and Courts Bill laid before Parliament last week, including investing more than £100 million to provide 2,500 additional prison staff.”

The IfG report is urging the Chancellor to ensure that his spending decisions are based on a realistic review of the performance of public services in the forthcoming Budget. It was also recommended that an Office for Budget Responsibility for public spending be established to ensure that decision-making is more efficient and wishful thinking is not a concern within the public sector.

“As we’ve seen with prisons, social care and now potentially hospitals, the government risks getting into a cycle of crisis, cash, repeat. This report is not a call for more money. It is a call for better financial planning and reforms that are robust enough to survive public scrutiny.

“It is fundamental to increasing the effectiveness of these public services that ministers, officials and the public know how well Government is performing, and use this information to guide decisions,” IfG Deputy Director, Julian McCrae commented.

Chief Executive of the CIPHA Rob Whiteman made further comments, saying it’s crucial that the funds that are available, are put to the best use possible, which means it’s necessary to have a deep understanding of how services are provided and how organisations are run. This will enable decision-makers to think creatively and strategically, which will ultimately see improvements made with regards to service delivery.

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