IN his inaugural address, President John F Kennedy famously challenged the American people: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Fifty five years later, the same question is just as pertinent on this side of the Atlantic when it comes to the wellbeing of the National Health Service, arguably this country’s most cherished institution.
An ageing population, together with new advances in medical science and the public’s increased expectations, mean the day-to-day challenges will remain intense in 2017 – irrespective of how politicians interpret the record levels of funding at the disposal of local hospitals.
Yet middle aged adults are not doing themselves, or the NHS any favours, by leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles according to perturbing research by Public Health England which reveals that 87 per cent of men, and 79 per cent of women, are not undertaking sufficient exercise.
This inactivity during the working day, coupled with excess alcohol consumption, is triggering a significant upturn in heart disease, and conditions like diabetes, which will place health services under even greater strain in the years ahead. Indeed, it is estimated that diabetes could account for 10 per cent of all medication prescribed by primary care trusts.
Given the New Year is traditionally a time when individuals resolve to make a start, personal health and fitness should be a priority – it’s one way of ensuring that the NHS’s stretched resources go to those with the greatest health needs.
Equally responsible employers have an important role to play.
If they can encourage their staff to go to the gym, or enjoy a walk, during the working day, they may find that productivity – and the health of their workforces improves as a consequence. As such, no one should shy away from asking what they – and others – can do to help the NHS, and their own health, in 2017. After all, prevention is always said to be better than cure...
Parking penalties: Hospital charges in spotlight
THERE is only one section of society to blame for hospital parking charges which have been described as exorbitant after a further five per cent increase in the revenue generated by NHS trusts – motorists themselves.
The fact of the matter is that ‘pay parking’ is a necessary evil to stop a selfish minority of drivers from abandoning their vehicles in hospital car parks while they go to nearby shops or run other errands.
If motorists were more considerate of others, charges might be more reasonable, though, it should be pointed out, that most of the money generated is spent on the actual management of the car parks concerned.
That Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust made £78,595 in the past financial year does not suggest that hospitals are using motorists as a ‘cash cow’ to prop up their fragile finances – this money equates to the salaries afforded to three junior doctors.
What is more difficult to defend, however, is those instances where disabled drivers are being charged by NHS trusts – this seems to be at variance with the spirit of ‘blue badge’ schemes – and the genuine hardship caused to relatives visiting long-term hospital patients.
Once again, the challenge for hospitals is to provide assistance, where possible, to such people without creating reams of unnecessary paperwork which becomes counter-productive and deters needy families from making an application. The last thing that doctors and nurses on busy hospital wards need is more bureaucracy and the task of policing car park policies each day.
Train of thought
IF this is the new age of the train with passenger numbers at record numbers, why is the rolling stock the oldest in living memory according to newly-published data?
This juxtaposition is symptomatic of a fundamental failing with the railway industry; namely the failure to invest sufficient sums of money in the most modern trains.
At a time when British manufacturing needs a major shot-in-the-arm ahead of Brexit, it’s disappointing that the country which invented in the railways seems so reluctant to invest in state-of-the-art rolling stock so the passenger experience is more commensurate with the record fares now levied.
More people than ever rely on the railways, the least they deserve is a strategy which plans for the future punctually and reliably.