March 16: More chaos at troubled trust

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IT IS clear that, for all the attention paid to its deep-seated problems and the attempts to bail out its flagging finances, there is still something rotten at the heart of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

The chaos afflicting the trust’s hospital appointment system, revealed by The Yorkshire Post today, is nothing new. On the contrary, it began over a year ago and was raised as a serious concern by the Care Quality Commission in November.

However, in a shocking refusal to be open and transparent with the very people they are supposed to be serving, the trust’s management fought hard to keep these details out of the public eye.

As a result, thousands of patients in Wakefield, Pontefract and Dewsbury failed to receive their appointment details, putting them at risk of harm, without any clear idea of what was going on.

Others received letters when they did not have appointments, or with too little notice, as the attempted introduction of a new computer system led to a backlog of 20,000 outpatient appointments.

Given the background to this crisis, however, such chaos is hardly surprising. Only last month, the NHS Staff Survey scored Mid Yorkshire as one of the worst NHS trusts in terms of whether staff would recommend it either as a place to work or to be treated, with 63 per cent of staff working extra hours and more than a quarter suffering bullying, harassment or abuse.

No wonder that managers want to keep problems secret and no wonder that those problems exist in the first place, given the chronic mismanagement which saw the trust build up a huge deficit – dating back to the building of new hospitals under the notorious Private Finance Initiative – and consequently desperate attempts to reduce debts, including redundancies and pay cuts.

For how long this legacy will continue to fester is unclear. Indeed, the only certainty is that, until serious action is taken to sort out the problems at the core of this unhappy trust, both staff and patients will continue to pay the price.

Ukip’s offer... and its empty policy cupboard

GENEROUS AS it is for Nigel Farage to offer to help out the Conservatives by supporting them on a vote-by-vote basis should the General Election result in a hung parliament, the Prime Minister will be reluctant to clasp the UK Independence Party leader’s outstretched hand.

The price exacted by Mr Farage for the unholy deal would be an immediate referendum on European Union membership, two years earlier than David Cameron had planned, leaving no time at all for renegotiating terms with Brussels.

There are, of course, many flaws and risks in Mr Cameron’s strategy, not least the increasing likelihood that he would be unable to agree any meaningful improvement in the terms of Britain’s membership. But the Tory leader’s plan does at least recognise the momentous nature of EU withdrawal and allow some time for full consideration of the implications before Britain goes to the polls.

In contrast, Mr Farage’s impatience reveals once again that there is precious little in Ukip’s policy portfolio other than EU withdrawal. It is the overarching goal that would pay for all Ukip’s spending commitments. And to achieve it, Mr Farage is only too keen to inflict on Britain the chaos of a hung parliament, or even the impoverishment that would result from five years of Labour government if it led to Britain becoming a more Eurosceptic nation.

Mr Cameron, meanwhile, may spend too long emphasising his long-term economic plan, but at least he has one, along with a commitment to continue the Tories’ education and welfare revolutions, to encourage house building and, as emphasised yesterday, to give pensioners the freedom to spend their money as they choose. Over to you, Mr Farage.

Call of history... But phone boxes have their uses

THEY ARE few and far between these days, but before it vanishes into history, the red telephone box has earned another commendation as the greatest British design of all time, topping a poll that includes the Union Flag, the Spitfire and the Rolls-Royce.

Yet fewer people use them each year and, to the younger generation, brought up on the smartphone, they are little more than museum pieces. The telephone box, however, has not quite outlived its usefulness. And, as long as mobile-phone coverage remains so patchy, and the phone companies are so slow to resolve this, these 1936 masterpieces of industrial design will still be called into service.