November 21: Jeremy Hunt on borrowed time: Health Secretary’s crisis of confidence

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why Is morale in the National Health Service at rock bottom – and why is the staffing shortage so serious that Yorkshire’s hospitals are having to draft in hundreds of nurses from the Philippines, and elsewhere, just to fill existing staff rosters?

As Jeremy Hunt returns to his desk following his speaking engagement with Beverley and Holderness Conservative Association, the Health Secretary would be well advised to start contemplating the future of the NHS from these two standpoints.

This has been a chastening week for Mr Hunt. His inability to explain the rationale behind the Government’s proposed changes to the pay and conditions of junior doctors is the reason why unprecedented strike action will take place next month.

If there was not bad enough, the Health Secretary was greeted in the East Riding by an open letter signed by 77 GPs who say they now “hate” their jobs because they cannot fulfil their duties properly and feel that the Cabinet minister has not been listening sufficiently to their valid concerns about the future of general practice in rural areas.

And, to compound matters, it was then announced that the NHS deficit had risen by £1.6bn in the past six months – the worst shortfall ever recorded in the organisation’s long history.

Of course, the invidiousness of Mr Hunt’s job should not be under-estimated – the deficit does, in fact, offer proof that reform is essential if the NHS is to meet the demands and expectations of a growing population. After all, he was appointed to sort out the botched shake-up of his predecessor Andrew Lansley and the staffing crisis can, in many respects, be traced back to the last Labour government’s short-sighted failure to invest sufficiently in medical training.

However, if Mr Hunt is to survive much longer in his job, an increasingly unlikely proposition when his demeanour so smacks of a politician on borrowed time, he needs to win back the trust – and respect – of doctors, nurses and GPs. For, unless he does so, this crisis of confidence will only get worse. After all, this is the state of the NHS before the winter pressures take effect and add to the Health Secretary’s woes. Is it time for a fresh start?

Unity with France: The best and worst of humanity

IF there is any glimmer of hope to come out of the Paris terror attacks of a week ago, and subsequent events, it is the extraordinary show of unity and humanity on both sides of the English Channel in response to this unspeakable outrage. Far from the “Islamic State” dividing religions, it has actual bought communities and countries together in spontaneous solidarity.

This atrocity – a betrayal of the Islamic faith – has also brought renewed impetus to the faltering efforts of world leaders on how best to neutralise IS and its poisonous ideology, and whether an accommodation needs to be reached with Russia over Syria’s future.

Yet, as countries like Britain reappraise their own national security, the European Union needs to look again at the issue of border controls. Even though free movement is one of the cornerstones of the EU, the absence of basic checks – and France’s lack of confidence in Belgium’s security protocols and vice-versa – made it easier for some of the perpetrators of this carnage to escape detection.

With German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s de facto leader, coming under pressure to halt the tide of Syrian refugees moving to this continent, the EU will be in danger of signing its own death warrant if it carries on as if nothing has happened.

Life in the Dales: Home truths for National Parks

IT COMES as little surprise that there are people prepared to pay a £100,000 premium to acquire a property in one of Yorkshire’s iconic National Parks – the views from many of this county’s landscapes are, in fact, priceless.

Yet this is cold comfort to those local people, born and brought up on the land, who are being priced out of the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors because the average house price is now 10.9 times higher than average annual earnings – a far greater disparity than that recorded in urban areas.

Yet, as The Yorkshire Post’s rural summit learned exactly one year ago, it is the people – and in particular those farming families working in all weathers – that make the Dales so special. Without them, and their careful stewardship of the land, the National Parks would not be so alluring to the wealthy. As such, this new survey by Lloyds Bank is yet another reminder that the issue of affordable rural housing needs to be given far greater attention.

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