February 4: Joined-up care is NHS priority

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THERE is every likelihood that Prime Minister’s Questions today will be dominated by the NHS as David Cameron and Ed Miliband trade statistics – and insults – yet again about their respective records. For weeks, the two leaders have argued, ferociously, about which party will be better placed to invest more money into healthcare – and who can recruit the most doctors and nurses.

Very little, however, has been spoken about the actual quality of care afforded to patients, an omission that becomes even more glaring with today’s stark warning, from Cancer Research UK, that one in two people will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives, and 25 per cent of the population will die as a direct result of modern medicine’s number one enemy.

They are statistics that the main parties cannot afford to ignore if they wish to be entrusted with the National Health Service’s management. If these projections are accurate, and there is no reason to suggest otherwise, health chiefs are going to have to plan ahead if they are to have any chance of meeting the expectations of patients.

This will only happen if there is a far closer collaboration between hospitals, GP surgeries, district nurses and those charities whose unstinting work continues to be taken for granted by national politicians – the Macmillan nurses and the wider hospice movement are two such examples of exemplary work in this sphere.

This relationship is critical if more cancer sufferers are to be treated in their own home in the future. Yet, on too many instances, it is breaking down because the funding for cancer sufferers has become as complex as the actual treatment. As such, today’s report is another reminder about exploring the merit of funding hospitals and social care provision from one central budget so there is a greater likelihood of patients receiving joined-up treatment and assistance in the future. If this does not happen, the financial challenges facing future governments will only become even more difficult to reconcile – and cure.

Politics of power

Flaws in English votes blueprint

WILLIAM HAGUE’S blueprint to empower English MPs at Westminster following the devolution of additional powers to Holyrood has two fundamental flaws.

First, it has the potential to make Parliament’s decision-making process even more convoluted. Second, legislative measures will still require a Commons majority before being passed into law – and that leaves open the possibility of MPs from Scotland expressing a veto if they so desire, and if the Parliamentary arithmetic stacks up in their favour, after the election on May 7.

It was not going to be easy for the Government to answer the so-called West Lothian Question – this notion has been troubling many of the country’s finest politicians since it was posed by Labour’s Tam Dalyell in the 1970s.

Yet the position of Mr Hague, the Commons leader, was not helped by David Cameron promising “English votes for English laws” on the steps of Downing Street in the immediate aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum when the Prime Minister, and his advisers, must have known that it would be impossible to deliver such a reform prior to polling day.

At least the Tories deserve credit for recognising the issue’s importance – Labour’s silence, and reluctance to take part in cross-party talks, can be explained by the fact that

Ed Miliband is dependent on the Scots if he is to form the next government.

Hard work pays

No token measures in business

TODAY’S roll-call of senior women to have joined the boardrooms of Britain’s leading FTSE companies vindicates those who believe that businesses can become more representative of society without the imposition of quotas. These inspiring individuals can derive considerable satisfaction from the fact that they have achieved their new-found status on merit – this is important if the economy is not to become bogged down by a counter-productive culture of tokenism.

For, while Labour’s decision to embrace all-women shortlists has helped to change the composition of the Commons, it has not necessarily enhanced the public’s regard for politicians. When electing their MP, voters will consider who is the best person for the job – irrespective of gender. And it is the same in business; genuine meritocracies should reward those who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and work their way to the very top.