What do you think the future holds for consumers?

We asked consumers for their views on the big trends affecting them now and what they thought they would be in the future. Here’s what they told us…

Abraham Lincoln once declared: ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it.’ While he didn’t have the chance to become a Which? supporter, with this attitude, he’d fit right in.

While no one has yet managed to invent a crystal ball or a time machine – and beware of anyone trying to sell you either – when thinking about the future, it makes sense to consider what needs to change today.

Consumer views

So we asked consumers what they thought would be the key trends and issues shaping everyone’s lives in 2030. We had a staggering 383 written responses to our survey and some thought-provoking telephone interviews, which went into more detail.

There were optimists. One thought that ‘consumers will be more energy- and resource-conscious’. And there were also pessimists, with one saying: ‘Robotics and Artificial Intelligence will probably shape consumer concerns and rights. Legal frameworks will struggle to catch up.’

Above all, our survey participants posed many questions. Like the one who asked: ‘Will there be a public reaction to the continuing increases in the collection of personal information data, and in personal surveillance?’. Or the person who wondered if money would still exist in 2030.

New horizons

We also crunched the numbers on what has shaped consumers’ lives over recent decades. For example, we found that since 1991, the share of people aged 25-34 who owned their own home has fallen from 67% to 38%. We also discovered that 30% of households now have £1 or less in a savings account or ISA.

But that’s not all – we also considered the implications of the major shifts that are on the horizon. New technologies potentially on the cusp of becoming widely available, such as driverless cars, or big political shifts like Brexit.

We then asked a range of experts to help us consider the implications of all these insights at three workshops.

This led us to prioritise six significant themes that will affect consumers’ lives, which we will examine through our policy work over the next few years. These were:

  • The digital revolution – digitisation has transformed consumer habits and behaviours, and the way goods and services are designed, marketed and sold, but there are significant risks, including online fraud, which is now the most common crime in England and Wales.
  • Lifetime savings – a lack of savings, particularly among young people, has serious implications for everyone, including funding old-age care.
  • Greater individual responsibility – individuals are facing more responsibility for more significant decisions than ever before. However, the professional services that people need can either be too expensive, low quality or simply not transparent. New robo-advice services could help but they need to balance the benefits with consumer protection.
  • Housing  is the UK rental sector fit for purpose if the majority of younger people are now renting rather than owning? While there are early signs of consumer-driven innovation, why are home-purchase arrangements still based on archaic systems that take many months, and often fall through?
  • Travel and transport – pressure on the transport system continues to mount and the regulatory models and compensation arrangements do not serve consumer needs. At the same time, travel by car is undergoing a technological revolution.
  • The consumer landscape and Brexit – the current system of consumer enforcement is in need of urgent reform, and as the UK leaves the EU, people will want confidence that there is a robust system in place to ensure that consumer product and food safety and standards are effectively enforced.

We’re keen to know more about consumer views. What do you think – have we missed anything? And what do you think will be the most important for you?


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You have said things that I would have said or already have said you beat m this time Duncan but of nobody will take any notice of anything you are saying they are too busy following the flock like sheep as you say Advertising runs many peoples lives not mine I add

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As Duncan said:”This is an all-encompassing issue and sadly does not depend on the UK but on the outcome of globalization and America + China . ” India, SE Asia, Africa and South America will also play their part.

In a world dominated by e-commerce, the UK is likely to become an unimportant backwater as far as consumer protection is concerned, but nonetheless a useful market where the like of Amazon, Apple, Google (and so on) score useful marginal improvements to their world sales figures.

In 2030, Amazon will rule the world.

I used to think Amazon was great, but as more and more High Street and local shops close as they can’t compete with the internet, I now see Amazon as a destructive force of the future.

You can buy almost anything from Amazon. They have branched out into music,TV, cloud services, the food market, they have recently bought a delivery company, they are soon going to bypass the need for credit cards or PayPal, taking money directly from customers bank accounts.

Back in January, it was reported that Amazon had 45000 robots in its warehouses. It is trialing drones for deliveries, it will need less and less people.

As Amazon monopolises markets undercutting the competition, businesses close and automation takes over, how long is this sustainable? How are people going to earn money when everything comes from China on the cheap?

Governments need to make sure competition can thrive so we have choice and most importantly employment.

Phil says:
28 October 2017

Amazon could yet over reach themselves or somebody might launch something better/worse. I remember a time when it looked as if Tesco were going to take over the world but they’re not looking so healthy now.

We live in very exciting times, but it concerns me that our lives are being increasingly driven by consumerism. Look at the amount that is spent at a family Christmas or wedding these days.

As mentioned in the introduction, we are increasingly being monitored and as a friend who works in the industry has told me, information is worth a lot of money to business.

It greatly concerns me that government seems to be increasingly manipulated by now far beyond political parties receiving money from business and political levies. We need governments to be as far as possible independent of influence by anyone other than the citizens of the country.

Caroline mentions the importance of product and food safety in the future. I recently learned that business is going to be given more responsibility for policing standards. In my view, that’s a recipe for declining standards.

We have benefited greatly from the advances in electronics, software and communication, though there are some downsides. It would be interesting to look into a crystal ball and see whether the smart revolution will be seen as positive or negative in fifty years from now.

Would anyone else like to join me in boycotting Amazon? I think that Alfa’s prediction might be right.


I don’t like Amazon either. I cannot really explain why – but I certainly go out of my way to avoid doing business via them if I can.

Phil says:
28 October 2017

Amazon are my vendor of last resort. I only buy from them if I can’t get what I want anywhere else. I’d rather go somewhere else and pay more for it than use Amazon and I know many people who feel the same.

It needs a very convincing and publicly made case to even begin a boycott . Most people simply will not care and will use Amazon for their personal gain – convenience and cheap prices.

The above (old) boycott relates to tax; it is up to government to lay down tax rules and then see they are enforced. Tax avoidance is something many do – do you have an ISA? Why expect Amazon to make a voluntary contribution?

I am no supporter of Amazon – I worry about their dominance – but they generate employment and thus income tax and NI. I would be more enthusiastic if we tackled their sale of dangerous products and those that do not meet legal safety regulations.

I don’t look forward to a world dominated by a few retailers. Look at the mobile networks, where there is so little consumer choice. At least we have smaller companies, but they have to use the networks provided by the large companies so they cannot operate independently.

Not just retailers, but manufacturers. Our insatiable wish to own more “things” at cheaper prices forces manufacturers to produce in higher and higher volumes, and thus reduces the number of producers to those capable of innovating and investing in the resources needed . It is inevitable. It is driven by consumers, and always has been. We need to consider ways of dealing with such change, as we will not turn the clock back. One way will be to reassess our personal needs to own more and more “stuff”.

Why do we buy so many clothes, gadgets, replace furniture, cars, domestic appliances……..Maybe we could buy what we need, not what we want, and clamour for products that last – that are durable and repairable. Part of the solution lies in our own hands and habits.

My concern is more in our dependence upon global technology that plays the major part in keeping things running. If it were disrupted we would be in chaos. As would also happen due to our increasingly planned total dependence upon electricity. If we phase out solid fuel and gas we will become dependent upon electricity for heating and cooking. If we abandon fossil-fuels for personal transport we will be totally reliant upon electricity for our cars. Should the supply fail, or be disrupted, where will that leave us? We need to put precautions in place to deal with this. Amazon will pale into insignificance as a problem.

Perhaps you have missed the recent information on the facilitating of tax dodging by eBay and Amazon which is understated at £1.5bn a year.

Seems laughable that the consumer magazine essentially saying we have an underfunded care system is unable to print anything about loss of tax revenue.

I am beginning seriously believe that theRegister is a better source of information.

” Dishman said Amazon is actively going through their list of sellers to request VAT numbers. He said about 67 per cent of revenue from non-EU sellers is attributed to VAT numbers – but added that doesn’t necessarily imply 33 per cent are non-compliant.

He said the company had been sharing its data with HMRC. However, Jon Thompson, the head of HMRC, said Amazon was not providing “complete transparency” on the foreign retailers that were using its site.

The Register has previously reported on the seemingly growing number of sellers based outside Europe who hold stock in the UK, but sell goods online without having a registered VAT number.

One small business owner, who asked not to be named, said the practice had undercut his business for consecutive years to the point where he no longer employs staff.

Two years ago, a Register analysis revealed iPad sellers based outside the UK are selling cut-price fondleslabs in Blighty after seemingly bypassing UK VAT payments”
The Register

It is interesting to note your figures on housing and what Which? has done, or not done over the last two decades to aid the building of decent new homes.

I refer of course to the building industry being predominantly a few very large builders who dominate the trade and have bought land which they release as and when they wish to build houses.

A charity that is involved in arranging mortgages surely should have had something to say about the regrettable practices of the freehold house being subject to onerous clauses. The quality of building in many cases has been atrocious.

So what of the future if charities become involved commercially in the very areas they ought to be fighting to right wrongs?

Patrick, thanks for reading our report and for your comments on the findings. You mentioned issues in housing and that’s an area that we are particularly keen to do further policy work on. Housing is one of our six strategic themes for our policy work and we have just kicked off a specific project looking at the private rented sector. We will report back on the findings next year and hope to hear your views.

Soory Alsistair not to have responded last month but the run up to the Consumers’ Association AGM and working on two houses was very hectic.

The AGM was interesting and I was disappointed in discussions with the Which?/CA staff that the subject of “fleecehold” and shoddy buildings was subservient to an impending work on rental. Personally I think this is wrong as people’s lives are being ruined and Which? has said nothing regarding the major builders.

As researchers are no doubt aware or should be aware there is already an awful lot of change going on in the rental arena which should be beneficial to renters. Perhaps a straightforward summary of all the current changes and the ones on the horizon would be sufficient.

The article actually provides a link to where you may download the “future scoping” report. It is interesting and I applaud forward thinking however it does appear to be majorly flawed in not considering any answers to the de-skilling and unemployment to be brought about by giant corporations operating from giant robot run warehouses.

The 15Mb paper which refers to its partner or facilitator Forum for the Future
“We are an international non-profit working with business, government and civil society to solve complex sustainability challenges” Note the order.

Despite being 15Mb it is only 10,000 plus words so not a taxing read. It is hard to take seriously when it avoids the difficult problems like unemployment, immigration, lack of housing, and broken governments.

Of course it does provide potential solutions to neatly packaged foreseen problems but one almost feels it has been here are some answers let us construct the scenario they answer. However it is worth reading for encouraging gems like:

” Signs of this future today
By 2021 The Resolution Foundation projects that we will see the biggest rise in inequality since the late 1980s, with falling living standards for almost the entire bottom half of the working-age income distribution.

Within a decade it estimates that 9 out of 10 Britons under 35 with modest incomes will be frozen out of home ownership.

The Centre for Cities found that the gap between economies in northern and southern English cities dramatically widened in 10 years. For every 12 jobs created since 2004 in southern cities, only one was created in cities elsewhere. ”

Perhaps moving charity HQ’s to the north will solve part of this problem and give staffers a better life.

And in case you wondered heavily taxing large warehouse, making them pay the VAT on purchases to recover the £1.5bn that is currently not being collected, make deliveries more expensive, and tax free the High ST. shops who employ more workers per square ft.

Phil says:
28 October 2017

” Signs of this future today ”

Yes the age old mistake of extrapolating current trends into the future. Shouldn’t the price of oil continued to skyrocket as it became more scarce? Something has to be done about home ownership, without first time buyers the whole housing market will seize up. Maybe a future socialist government will nationalise housebuilding and fulfil the numerous promises we’ve had since 1945 or maybe the Chinese will start shipping them here in flatpacks. Who knows.

Phil says:
28 October 2017

I don’t think that fully autonomous driverless cars are on the cusp of being widely available and won’t be for some time. Cars will become more automated to reduce driver workload but the day when driverless taxis cruise the streets totally replacing trains and buses as has been predicted is a long, long way off.

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It’s hard to divert ones attention away from Brexit, but I don’t envisage much future progress being made until it is well and truly behind us. Duncan makes reference to global markets and American/Chinese dominance, which begs the question, what does the future hold for the UK if or when we are excluded from the third most influential and profitable global market without a reasonable deal?

Its encouraging to see continuous research into thermal clothing which I predict we will all be wearing more of to keep warm in the future and it will become more fashionable. Scientists are already exploring a host of different materials that will appeal to younger as well as older members of society as energy becomes more expensive and scarce.

It is becoming increasingly worrying to witness the increase in the amount traffic and pollution on our roads. The future must lie in improving the rail and freight systems in order to reduce the number of lorries as well as private cars, but first the government need to impose more regulation on unions to prevent the continuous disruption caused by walk outs and strikes that stop people getting to their place of work.

I have already posted ways in which to improve the housing market which is a complete shambles at the moment, but with interest rates predicted to increase any time at all, this is bound to make buying more difficult for younger people to afford to get onto the housing ladder and also affect those on variable mortgages. Private landlords need to be better regulated with more people being forced to rent instead of buy and for those whose homes will be repossessed.

However, any future change for the better is dependent upon the time it takes to settle Brexit negotiations. Until then I think we will be facing uncertain and hard times and concessions will inevitably follow.

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” first the government need to impose more regulation on unions to prevent the continuous disruption caused by walk outs and strikes that stop people getting to their place of work.”

I rate health and safety as quite important aspects of any transport system and the removal of any aspect on cost grounds needs to be examined with extreme care. Capitalists being notoriously keen to over state benefits and understate risks.

Can I interest anyone in some leaded petrol?

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Post Maggie, trade unions still exist but focus more on the defence of their members’ interests.

I doubt that many employees of McDonalds can afford to belong to trade unions. Beside, in a few years time, their current crop of sales robots will have been supplemented by a further team of kitchen robots, so they’ll be hardly any humans employed there.

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For the foreseeable future, there will always be a need for actual products across the whole spectrum of life. In ‘advanced’ countries, this will mean demand for household goods, cars, groceries and items that are used within society, bought by society for public use. Thus there will be a physical need to produce these items and actually transport them from manufacture to the final purchaser. There are only a few ways of doing this, and no amount of new digitisation and software will alter the need to get the product from A to B. There might be an improvement on the supply and demand side, so that goods are produced as required rather than stockpiled for distribution. This would have to mean better communication between the various strands involved and advances in the flow chain from raw material to consumer delivery.

I would agree that the digital world is currently in crisis because security has not kept up with ease of use. I would hope that the future balance between the two will improve. Looking at the digital world, it is hard to see what else needs to be invented. Communication is almost instant by a wide variety of methods, both for individuals and countries. Perhaps these can be refined further to make it easier to communicate. So, instead of having a physical phone and pushing buttons on keyboards, or using word processors, there will be instant speech to text which improves on the inaccurate systems we have at present. Refining this too far could lead to a risk of things being said and transmitted without thought. This is easy enough now! Since digital can not transport actual things, its use must be a message based and information gathering medium. Maybe in future it could send instructions to robotic factories, but it is incapable of actually doing the work. I am quite certain that digital information gathering, both innocent and clandestine, will be refined and developed in future. In fact the digital medium is now able to disrupt the world and this will only get better/worse.

Savings depends on who and where you are. In ‘developed’ countries it is a huge problem since income is generally not much more than the demands made upon it. Thus there will be an increase in pension poverty, house buying will be a luxury for more and more and the demands on the state will grow as it looks at a population in need and unable to afford the essentials required for a civilised lifestyle. When society breaks down in this way there is civil unrest. Adding to that, is the limited financial budget that the country can afford. Like all of us, there will be a time when borrowing becomes impossible. We shall either adjust our lifestyle in the future or suffer. Such changes will be unpopular and may impinge on what we can do in future. For the first time in history, what our predecessors did will be the envy of those that are alive at that time.

Housing will continue to be a problem. History has shown that prices rise and are usually at the top of what people can afford. Those with housing assets are protected, those without get increasingly left behind. This in-balance will get worse and I don’t see the future as much of an improvement, despite attempts to build more houses. More social unrest is created in this area.

Likewise, I am pessimistic about travel and transport. With an ever increasing travel need and a finite transport system, things can only get worse. Electric transport may become compulsory and this will alter the way we live and travel. There will be a problem getting goods from place to place and the compromises necessary to survive will make travel more of an expensive luxury for most of us. Road and rail rationing might become the norm and costs will spiral, putting further strain on incomes.

The consumer landscape will definitely change. I hope that product safety will improve and we shall find better ways to grow and cook food, and better ways to create less waste and general effluent. One thing that might change a great deal, is the way developing countries impinge upon the world, making greater demand on resources and exercising more influence on the world stage. All this, of course, supposes that no one presses the wrong button in rage. This would alter everything so dramatically that no future prediction is possible and it’s back to the cave and the spear.

You , me and Eeyore : ) I do agree.

“Eeyore, what are you doing there?” said Rabbit.
“I’ll give you three guesses, Rabbit. Digging holes in the ground? Wrong. Leaping from branch to branch of a young oak tree? Wrong. Waiting for somebody to help me out of the river? Right. Give Rabbit time, and he’ll always get the answer.”
“But, Eeyore,” said Pooh in distress, “what can we – I mean, how shall we – do you think if we -”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “One of those would be just the thing. Thank you, Pooh.”

Maybe it’s time for consumers to reject consumerism and move to a more sustainable lifestyle. Vynor mentions an ever increasing travel need, but perhaps we can reject that too.

In my parent’s generation it was quite normal for one parent to work and the other to be at home for the kids, but that was before consumerism set in and made us work harder so we could spend more.

Very true Wavechange but in those days there was no contraceptive pill and women had many more kids who had to share and pass on their treasured toys to their siblings who invariably finished up breaking them! In my local village store last week I noticed they are now selling pregnancy test kits along with the paracetamol and toothpaste!

Consumerism emanated originally from a need to keep up with the Jones’s, otherwise other kids felt deprived if friends were bestowed with the next smart toy and not they, so parents were made to suffer until they produced the same as little Johnny next door (or even better) and peace reigned for a week or two until the novelty wore off and the pattern is repeated. Credit cards then came into being making purchases easier and advertisers wasted no time in jumping on the opportunist bandwagon by entering the fray and those same kids grew up into adults with exactly the same wants instead of needs.

Could this be the reason why 30pc of people today only have £1 or less in a savings account or ISA and young people are finding it so difficult to raise a deposit to buy their own place? Those inherited behavioural patterns can be extremely hard to break (as previously discussed elsewhere).

it is up to individuals to decide how to lead their lives. If they cannot see the point in saving and want all the gadgets, fun and holidays now, then they can so choose. But then they cannot complain when they are unable to buy a house or some of the more important things in life. Many do have the attitude that working hard, saving, doing without some of life’s short-lived pleasures, is a better way for them. We can give guidance, we can warn of consequences, but maybe we are wrong and they are right?

It’s interesting to see how siblings differ in behaviour. Some are much more wasteful than others.

Best not to live next to anyone called Jones.

What we call “wasteful” might not be so to them, of course. It depends upon their own view of life, risks they want to take, and how they might see the future. I have always been “prudent” in my spending, having come from a background where not much money was available for more than the decent basics. But no family car, fridge, phone……So I learnt the “value of money”. However I missed out on some of the more entertaining things available by being over cautious. I’m trying to make up for that now 🙂

Wavechange, be careful what you wish for! They are closer than you think!

Malcolm, It’s not so much a question of whose wrong or whose right but more about letting go after all your guidance and being there for them if they return ‘cap in hand’.

As I said, Beryl. 🙂 We all have different needs and attitudes. I have given guidance to my children on the ways I think might help them, but not instructions. They can then make their own minds up. They now give me help and advice and I am quite comfortable asking for their views. From time time time we need each other’s help.

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I think we all agree with Malcolm we all have different needs and attitudes but we also need to agree that we need to get back to what the future holds for consumers.

Don’t forget the clocks 🙂

Beryl, Re: Housing: While you appear to be well informed on many issues, your understanding of the rental market, is simplistic. The market you refer to is hardly ‘regulated’ at all – sorry to say. Once a 2 times, home-owner, I was plunged into the rental market after divorce 15yrs ago, and I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone! I have had satisfactory, but more often, poor Landlords over the years, and NEVER SECURITY: Short-term tenancies: 6 or 12 months at a time – how would you deal with this? Run your life: your job, your children at school, your family and friends. Until we deal with this issue alone, Beryl, how do you propose society ‘gets on with it?’ Lack of security is an invisible, underlying issue for most of our society, but especially our young: job security – GONE. Housing security – GONE. Safety net of Benefits – if one is unfortunate enough to become unemployed/ill – GONE – I speak from experience on all counts. Instability is fundamental to many of societie’s ills . . . poor mental and physical health caused – by our working and social environment. So please, Beryl, unless you have direct experience of the rental market yourself – don’t presume to understand it. I am 58, and a struggling retired Teacher: I lost my position due to ill health. Having worked full time, and paid taxes for over 40yrs, I found the ‘Benefits’ system – that I thought to be a ‘safety net’ to be dire – unsatisfactory, and along with the rental market – woefully inadequate – not fit for purpose.

Hello jae, I agree with all you say, as my post Today @ 12.49, penultimate paragraph makes the point:

“Private landlords need to be better regulated with more people forced to rent instead of buy and for those whose homes will be repossessed.”

I do sympathise with your plight, but suffice to say we have much more in common than you realise.

A more realistic future in this article perhaps.


which rather highlights the fatuity of considering the future without considering the potential social collapse.

I should have added the article is 6000 plus words but is heavily loaded with information. This quote perhaps should be considered.

” Far from slowing down, progress in artificial intelligence is now outstripping even the wildest hopes of the most dedicated AI cheerleaders. Unfortunately, for those of us worried about robots taking away our jobs, these advances mean that mass unemployment is a lot closer than we feared—so close, in fact, that it may be starting already. But you’d never know that from the virtual silence about solutions in policy and political circles.

I’m hardly alone in thinking we’re on the verge of an AI Revolution. Many who work in the software industry—people like Bill Gates and Elon Musk—have been sounding the alarm for years. But their concerns are largely ignored by policymakers and, until recently, often ridiculed by writers tasked with interpreting technology or economics. “

But I doubt it’s factually accurate. When it states “Far from slowing down, progress in artificial intelligence is now outstripping even the wildest hopes of the most dedicated AI cheerleaders.” I’d like to know the evidence that’s based on. Frankly, from my own investigation, I’d have said we were still at least 40 years away from Android creation, and even a real AI system. There are lots of cunning algorithms that can mimic AI, and processor speeds continue to increase but the harsh reality is that AI won’t appear anytime soon – at least, not in the guise which most believe it might.

At the moment we’ve reached the stage where it can be taught to Fetch! and Sit! on command and even the stage where, with sufficient power, it can win in Chess and Go. But to become a true AI it has to be able to do a great deal more which, since so much of what humans do and how they behave is based on ethical positions, is extremely unlikely at this stage.

The MoJo article is slim on definitions, too; because if we take the initial paragraph alone as setting out the stall, as it were, then it’s perhaps worth reflecting that exactly the same thing could have been written in 1890. Robots did take a lot of jobs – such as dishwashing, clothes cleaning, grass cutting and more, and it’s only logical to expect that the trend – which has been moving along healthily since 1890 – will continue, so that’s not really news.

But the MoJo article – for me, anyway – makes a massive and unsubstantiated leap when it refers casually to Doctors being replaced. Or teachers. Or Social Workers. For any of those to go we’re going to need a truly Asimovian leap in ethical subroutineing, and that’s nowhere near being developed.

So while maintaining the garden might be doable by a robot in around 10 years time, don’t expect the children to be taught by an obliging nanny android anytime soon.

Perhaps I should change the locks….

Amazon and all delivery firms they use ?

You could try this……….youtube.com – Hilarious Japanese Door Prank (Skit)

🚪 Ha Ha, I was waiting for him to get knocked out by the door. 😄

And as a glimpse of the current carrying on into the future here big money talks and having funded assets takes the proceeds out of the country.

” Meanwhile, many PFI deals are causing headaches across public services, particularly in the NHS. The University College London Hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) told the BBC that its PFI debt was far too high, mainly due to interest rate charges of between 7% and 8%.
This meant an annual bill of £30m, at least double what he believes UCLH could be paying if the debt was re-scheduled.
Professor Marcel Levi, UCLH Chief Executive, told the BBC: “If we spend an enormous amount of money on paying interest rates and this PFI debt, then that’s money we cannot spend on patient care, on nurses, on treatment and management systems.”

Just as a matter of context I was paying on my mortgage 0.35% OBR and any sensible person would re-negotiate the 7% and 8% . I suspect the craven governments have signed up to make these almost impossible to get out of. PFI is perhaps one of the biggest scandals inflicted on the country short of our recent invasion of Iraq. The PFI cost immense and perversely entirely foreseeable how it would pan out.