February 7: Lonely must not suffer in silence

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THE HEALTH Secretary made a profound point this week in response to Labour’s strategic decision to “weaponise” the NHS ahead of the election. “It’s not about public versus private. It’s about good care versus poor care,” said Jeremy Hunt whose empathy was acknowledged by the King’s Fund think-tank following its trenchant criticism of the billions of pounds that were wasted because of the Government’s botched top-down reorganisation of the National Health Service.

This principle also goes to the very heart of this newspaper’s year-long campaign to persuade local authorities and medical practitioners to reflect the plight of the lonely in their health and wellbeing strategies. Simply doing nothing was not an option – loneliness is a hidden epidemic – and this is reflected by those organisations that have chosen to prioritise this issue. They are to be commended. The significance of loneliness, and the need for other public sector bodies to do likewise, is highlighted by the oral testimony of very humble individuals who have become detached – often through no fault of their own – from their relatives in an increasingly transient society and who lack the confidence to go out and meet other people.

Yet, by staying at home and suffering in silence, the evidence suggests that they will become a greater burden to the NHS because of a lack of stimulation from being a member of the community group – or going out for lunch. With the National Health Service facing unprecedented pressures, it is imperative that doctors – and others – provide the necessary support as a result of this increased awareness. They can’t do it alone, David Cameron is right to say that loneliness is a society-wide issue, but it is vital that the momentum is maintained. After all, the key test of a country’s compassion is its ability to look after the most vulnerable when in need.

Farage under fire: Rotherham and politics of hate

NIGEL Farage was never going to be unduly flustered by the type of demonstration witnessed in Rotherham yesterday; the Ukip leader simply drew comfort from the fact that the protest drew even more attention to his party and the public’s revulsion following the latest harrowing revelations about the borough’s child sex grooming scandal.

Yet, while many will sympathise with the calls by Mr Farage and outspoken MP John Mann for every Rotherham councillor to resign in order to draw a line under past and present failings of accountability, the politics of hate which now characterises the electoral rivalry between Labour and Ukip in the South Yorkshire town is in danger of spiralling out of control.

The provocative timing of Mr Farage’s visit did suggest that his party was looking to exploit the plight of the victims rather than working with others to reconcile the unforgivable failings of the past two decades.

Ukip’s strategy – one bordering upon shameless opportunism – could not contrast more with the approach of the town’s MP Sarah Champion. As Michael Cockerell’s compelling documentary of Parliament showed this week, she has sought to build a consensus since being elected in 2012 in succession to Denis MacShane who did not appear to fully appreciate the issue’s seriousness before being jailed for expenses fraud. The BBC programme saw Ms Champion being congratulated by David Cameron for not only her persistence, but her constructive approach. For Rotherham to move on, the politics needs to be more conciliatory – on all sides.

A newspaper titan: Sir Gordon Linacre remembered

THE Yorkshire Post would not be the respected institution that it is today without innovators and leaders like Sir Gordon Linacre who has passed away at the age of 94.

Here was a reporter, his first assignment was covering a bee-keeper’s meeting in Sheffield, who was born with newsprint in his veins and who went on to command the respect of his colleagues and peers as he progressed through the ranks during a brilliant career which culminated with his appointment as the very first president of Yorkshire’s national newspaper.

Although today’s multi-media newspaper industry is very different to Sir Gordon’s era – the pace of technological change means the paper’s iconic offices and printing presses in the centre of Leeds are no more – his passion, principles and professionalism are as a relevant today as they were during his stewardship of this title. In short, he was a newspaper titan who expected – and delivered – the best.

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