Health warning on NHS finance

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IF A Yorkshire business was haemorrhaging money and weighed down by debts of £100m, the banks would, in all probability, have pulled the plug by now. They would have had no choice.

However this is simply not possible with those hospital trusts which are so heavily in the red – they are responsible for an essential public service which simply cannot be sacrificed. Lives depend on the expertise of doctors and nurses.

Yet it is increasingly clear, as the political debate about the future of the National Health Service intensifies ahead of the 2015 election, that the status quo is not a suitable prescription for reform. While the latest tranche of efficiency savings will buy some time, and should not be dismissed, they are akin to a single sticking plaster being used to heal a wound that is seeping large amounts of blood. Far more ambitious remedies are needed – whether it be the promotion of more innovative managers advocated by The Yorkshire Post’s columnist Sir Bernard Ingham two days ago; the Institute of Economic Affairs calling for debt-ridden NHS trusts to be declared bankrupt so they can start again with a clean slate under new leaders or Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s appeal for less bureaucracy so more patients receive the right care at the outset of their treatment.

It will not be easy – hospitals are facing unprecedented scrutiny following the Mid Staffs scandal and the challenges posed by an ageing society are even more demanding because so many people do not accept responsibility for their lifestyle. However a health warning should accompany all pre-election pronouncements – this issue is too important for soundbites. Instead there needs to be a mature debate on the type of NHS that the country requires, its funding and the private sector’s role. After all, today’s challenges are very different to those faced by the Attlee government at the Health Service’s inception.

Abuse watershed

Trust is top challenge for PCC

TWO MONTHS after the contents of Professor Alexis Jay’s harrowing report into the sexual exploitation of at least 1,400 youngsters in Rotherham left the country reeling, today’s election of a new police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire must mark a watershed as the troubled constabulary begins the long process of restoring its battered reputation.

Understandably the two probable winners have their own agendas – Labour’s Canon Alan Billings wants the PCC post abolished while Ukip’s Jack Clarkson has promised a war on political correctness – but their personal priorities should be regarded as secondary considerations.

Following several scandals, and then Shaun Wright’s arrogant refusal to resign as commissioner over his own failings in Rotherham, trust in South Yorkshire Police remains at an all-time low.

Whoever wins, the priority for South Yorkshire’s next commissioner is a reputational one. They need to use the powers of their office to ensure that each and every resident can have absolute confidence in the integrity of their

local force, and that senior officers are answerable to the public. This exercise needs to be undertaken in a dignified and professional manner while also bearing in mind that there are 1,400 families who are still waiting for the perpetrators of these gruesome sexual crimes to be brought to justice. Because of this, the wider public interest trumps any party political considerations.

After all, it was Labour’s failure to acknowledge the full scale and horror of sexual exploitation taking place on its watch in Rotherham which culminated in yesterday’s by-election.

The code-breaker

Dewsbury’s local lad made good

how refreshing to hear rugby star Sam Burgess speak with such pride and passion about his Yorkshire upbringing as this proud son of Dewsbury (and friend of one Russell Crowe) returns to these shores to begin the next phase of his extraordinary career.

One of four rugby-playing brothers, this is a phenomenal player who even earned the respect of Australia when he led the South Sydney Rabbitohs to victory in the NRL Grand Final despite suffering a fractured cheekbone and eye socket in the first minute. After admitting that he missed Britain, this 25-year-old man mountain has switched codes and will now ply his trade with Bath. He hopes to bludgeon his way into the England rugby union squad for next year’s World Cup. It’s a tall order – Burgess has never played the 15-a-side game – but he does have the world at his feet and there’s every likelihood that Dewsbury will have even more reason to celebrate the amazing achievements of this local lad made good.