In the first Birmingham Brief of 2016, the University asked 5 of their academics to give their thoughts on what we might expect from the year ahead. Two academics from the School of Social Policy - Professor Judith Smith and Dr Nando Sigona - gave their views.

The funding settlement for the NHS in the Comprehensive Spending Review was better than expected; with a commitment to invest in mental health and general practice, and support from the British public remains high. 

But waiting times are rising, staff morale is falling and hospitals struggle to attract and retain nurses and other staff.  Deep cuts to social care cause particular pressure, as seen by the numbers of frail older people awaiting discharge from hospital. Add to this the expectation from politicians that the NHS makes major changes to how it delivers services – to enable more community-based care, full seven–day working, and achieve efficiency savings of £22 billion by 2020 – and 2016 looks like a very challenging year. 

If progress is made as demanded, 2016 will mark a turning point for the NHS. However, given the pressures of rising demand for health care, the overall trajectory of NHS funding falling as a percentage of GDP, and the known difficulty of making changes to health care provision, I predict a more likely scenario of the NHS ending this year with continuing financial problems and struggling to sustain care quality.  

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The EU-Turkey deal struck in late 2015 has proved effective in reducing the influx of migrants to EU shores, but I believe the EU’s external border crisis will increasingly morph into an integration crisis within Europe if the EU and national governments don’t put in place adequate measures to assist the settlement of newcomers and address anti-immigration sentiments.

Nando Sigona

The emphasis on borders and a new EU-led border force to replace and greatly expand Frontex’s remit suggests little thought has been given to reinventing EU citizenship with the inclusion of the newcomers.

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