April 8: A remedy for future of A&E

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IT WAS no coincidence that Labour unveiled a campaign poster depicting a long queue of patients waiting to see a GP on the day that the latest A&E data was published.

These statistics make do make for sobering reading in Yorkshire. More than two thirds of hospital trusts locally have not met the Government’s waiting time targets. And the problem is even more acute in Hull where the Government’s four-hour target has now been missed every week for the past six months – one half of a year.

Yet, as Labour’s health spokesman Andy Burnham should know by now, the recruitment of sufficient doctors and nurses is only part of the prescribed remedy – there does need to be a fundamental rethink in the provision of medical care to take account of the demands of an ageing society. As such, GP provision and A&E waiting times should not be viewed in isolation – both are intrinsically linked and it is time that Britain’s political elite recognised this rather than perpetuating the point-scoring which has come to constitute NHS policy-making.

In many respects, the problem stems from the renegotiation of GP contracts by Tony Blair’s government which failed to put a sufficient onus on out-of-hours care provision. Because of this, hospital casualty units have been known to become de facto doctors’ surgeries – a state of affairs that has detracted nurses from treating the most critically ill of patients.

It cannot carry on like this. A more sustainable service needs to be created, and one which is less dependent on emergency bailouts each winter. The new government will have tough decisions to make about the rationalising of A&E care – should, for example, both Halifax and Huddersfield be served by major casualty units when they are within such close proximity? No politician will answer this question during an election – but it is one that they can only duck for so long.

Building relations: Dewsbury teenagers flee to Syria

REPORTS that two 17-year-old teenagers from Dewsbury have fled to Syria, presumably to join up with Islamic State fighters, are another depressing development as the armed struggle in the Middle East appears to become intractable.

However it would be wrong to intimate that the latest fugitives are part of an exodus from Britain to one of the world’s most inhospitable locations. The number, though worrying, represent a tiny fraction of young Muslims growing up in the UK today and adhering to this country’s values. Nevertheless, it is important that the public response is measured. There are two families in West Yorkshire who fear that they may not see their children again, and who are coming to terms with how their offspring were radicalised like this – and by whom.

As such, these disturbing revelations are another reminder, if one was needed, that Muslim community leaders, such as imams, have a priceless role to play in their teachings and that absolutely nothing positive will be achieved by those impressionable youngsters who flee to countries like Syria.

Britain is, to its credit, one of the most tolerant and diverse countries in the world – far more so than those nations now at the mercy of ISIS militants – and it is vital that this message is not lost. In many respects, the best response is for people of all faiths, and backgrounds, to present a united front and work together to identify those preachers of hatred whose views, a perversion of the Koran, have absolutely no place in a civilised society where young people from different faiths can grow up together in harmony.

A debt to society

IF David Cameron’s campaign team are still wondering why the Prime Minister has failed to build a decisive lead in the polls, the latest figures from debt charity StepChange could provide an answer.

The Leeds-based organisation’s statistics indicate that UK families are among the most indebted in the world, with the average person who gets in touch with the charity owing more than £11,000.

It is a wake-up call to those who would assert that the recovery is now being felt in all quarters. Whilst it is true that Britain is faring far better than most countries, including Germany, the supposed financial bedrock of the European Union, too many people are unable to save because of stagnant wages and rising living costs.

If David Cameron does not secure an outright majority on May 7 it will be in no small part due to his failure to convince voters that, they, too will share the benefits of a recovery which has yet to permeate through to all sections of society.