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Chris Cook

Chris Cook Policy editor, BBC Newsnight

Welcome to my blog – where I reflect on what’s going on in public policy and how it might affect you

Labour's NHS and social care plan under the spotlight

  • 30 January 2015
  • From the section Health
Andy Burnham

This week, Westminster has been chewing over Labour's proposals for the English NHS.

In a speech on Tuesday, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "I am clear - the market is not the answer to 21st Century health and care. If we allow market forces to continue to take hold, they will eventually break the NHS apart."

Mr Burnham said he wanted public providers to get preference over private providers when NHS contracts come up for tender - the NHS should be its own "preferred provider".

This is his response to rising outsourced care in the English NHS, which stood at 6% of spend last year (although that number is expected to rise quickly in the coming years).

But speaking to presenter Kirsty Wark on Newsnight, Mr Burnham said: "I don't see a role for the private sector where it can replace core public provision... but there's a supply role where extra capacity is needed."

Read full article Labour's NHS and social care plan under the spotlight

The government departments breaching Freedom of Information law

Some of the most important government departments are not fulfilling their obligations under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, a Newsnight investigation has shown.

Ten years on from the Act's introduction, Whitehall is still resisting the transparency law.

Read full article The government departments breaching Freedom of Information law

Huge growth in private students taking state loans

Graduation ceremony

There is one big coalition public policy decision that has not attracted much attention: the use of public funds to pay for alternative providers in higher education.

Students at a number of charitable and for-profit colleges are now eligible for state support - almost in line with that for university students.

Read full article Huge growth in private students taking state loans

The 'problem' of medical drug prices

BBC

A lot of people in the NHS hate the Cancer Drugs Fund - the pot of money dedicated to funding expensive cancer drugs for patients in England.

This is because the CDF - a fund that will have £340m next year - exists to pay for treatments that would not be bought were cancer subject to normal NHS cost-benefit rules.

Read full article The 'problem' of medical drug prices

Why lowering tuition fees is more complicated than you think

University graduation

Labour is toying with the idea of fiddling with the English university tuition fees system, but doing so may have counterintuitive effects.

Early in the parliament, Labour said their preferred policy was to introduce a £6,000 upper limit on what universities in England can charge students each year - not £9,000, as it currently stands. But they haven't committed to it - and there are a range of good reasons why they might not.

Read full article Why lowering tuition fees is more complicated than you think

The 'difficulty' in gaining Cabinet Office FOI requests

Cabinet Office Sign

Over Christmas, an odd story emerged - two Conservative special advisers were barred from standing to be Tory MPs for breaches of the party's rules, making them look like rather principled chaps.

In brief, Nick Timothy and Stephen Parkinson - who work for the Home Secretary Theresa May - were told to campaign in a by-election if they wished to remain on the Tory parliamentary candidates list, like all other potential candidates for the party.

Read full article The 'difficulty' in gaining Cabinet Office FOI requests

Hinchingbrooke Hospital and the future for outsourcing

  • 9 January 2015
  • From the section Business
Hinchingbrooke Hospital main entrance

Is the great experiment finally over? The only fully outsourced hospital in England may be coming back, for the moment at least, into public hands.

The healthcare company Circle has given notice that it may end its contract to run Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust, a small hospital in Cambridgeshire.

Read full article Hinchingbrooke Hospital and the future for outsourcing

The odd argument over public spending

Conservative press conference
George Osborne and other senior Conservatives delivered civil service estimates for how much some Labour policies will cost

British politics is a rather unfamiliar landscape at the moment: the share of voters who back none of the main parties is expected to reach an all-time high at this year's elections. Who knows how things will turn out?

Yet today, the Conservatives launched a campaign which feels very 1992. The Tories unveiled a re-run of one of their oldest campaign messages: "Labour cannot be trusted not to spend more than the country can afford".

Read full article The odd argument over public spending

A Christmas government website wish

Info button on keyboard

I have a really simple Christmas wish: Please can the government stop "improving" its websites.

If possible, a return to the sites we had in about 2009 would be ideal.

Read full article A Christmas government website wish

NHS patients and private hospital referrals

  • 10 December 2014
  • From the section Health
Hospital surgery

NHS patients who get referred to private hospitals for two very common surgeries enjoy better results, Newsnight analysis has shown.

Looking at knee and hip replacements, the only two procedures for which there is enough data, Newsnight found patients referred to private providers did better than patients of the same age, gender and prior health who were referred to NHS hospitals.

Read full article NHS patients and private hospital referrals

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About Chris

Chris is BBC Newsnight's policy editor, covering the real-world consequences of decisions made by the politicians. He covers everything from schooling, health and hunger through to budgets and banks.

Based at New Broadcasting House in central London, he is an enthusiastic user of the Freedom of Information Act and a keen data journalist.

Prior to joining the BBC in 2014, he was an award-winning leader writer, education correspondent and comment editor at the Financial Times.

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