YP Comment: Don’t leave A&E cover to chance this winter

A&E waiting time targets are being missed.
A&E waiting time targets are being missed.
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ANOTHER day and another report on the creaking state of the NHS, this time a Parliamentary exposé on how poor performance in A&E is becoming “the norm” because of the fact that many major hospitals simply don’t have enough staff to treat patients within the four hour time limit prescribed by the Government.

It’s actually far worse. Not only is there a chronic shortage of casualty consultants, but there’s evidence that some hospitals are refusing to obey a new cap on the amount paid to ‘agency’ staff because they’re so desperate to fill shifts and a full crisis was only avoided last winter because of unseasonably mild weather.

As the Health Select Committee makes clear today with a hard-hitting report which coincides with the first cold snap of winter, waiting time targets do not exist to suit the whims of the Government’s bureaucrats. They’re not an optional extra, they should be regarded “as a matter of patient safety” and hospital bosses must recognise this.

It is also significant that this powerful committee is headed by Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston who is a GP. Not only is her name increasingly familiar, but she’s becoming more influential after accusing the Ministers of misleading the public with statements purporting to suggest the NHS is awash with the money and that the Government’s much-vaunted £10bn cash boost was only achieved by creative accounting.

The real shame is that Jeremy Hunt, the longstanding Health Secretary, seems reluctant to listen to constructive and objective criticism. If he did, he would realise that the sustainability of A&E units should not come down to the vagaries of the British weather and that the need for a joined up NHS policy, so A&E admissions are not compromised by shortcomings in social care and mental health provision, has never been more urgent.

Double standards over taxi licences

AS a result of the child sexual exploitation scandal, local authorities in South Yorkshire – and Rotherham in particular – have had to put in place even more stringent safeguards, not least on the issuing of licences to taxi and private hire drivers who are now expected to have a clean criminal record and speak fluent English.

What is worrying, however, is that these strict protocols do not apply to drivers licensed in other parts of the country. In Sheffield alone, there are more than 700 drivers who are registered with town halls elsewhere, including 414 with the Lancashire council of Rossendale according to a recent investigation.

Even though the number of ‘rogue’ operators represents a tiny fraction of the number of taxi drivers operating on the region’s roads, the prevalence of CSE means that any loopholes need to be closed immediately.

As Sheffield MP Clive Betts, chairman of Parliament’s Communities and Local Government Committee, says: “Children and vulnerable adults will remain at risk in Rotherham for as long as the local authority’s tough new licensing rules can be undermined by taxis from other areas.” The answer is simple – the strict rules applied in South Yorkshire must now be implemented nationally without delay. CSE abuse victims scarred for life – and all those drivers who do conform to the highest standards of integrity – deserve nothing less.

Policing landmark

OFFICIAL CONFIRMATION that Dee Collins is the new chief constable of West Yorkshire Police marks another milestone in policing – she is the first woman to hold the role in the constabulary’s history. Further evidence that the police hierarchy is endeavouring to be more representative of the community it serves with more women, and officers from ethnic minority backgrounds, in senior positions, this appointment also fills the leadership void following the suspension, and retirement, of Mark Gilmore, the previous chief.

Though Ms Collins has been Temporary Chief Constable for a considerable period, and has been promoted on merit, residents of West Yorkshire will, moving forward, expect a far better response than the chaotic scenes from the ‘wild west’ which were witnessed in Leeds city centre when officers struggled to round up a group of maniac motorcyclists whose recklessness was endangering public safety. The success of her tenureship will depend on the strength of her force’s relationship with the law-abiding public who, frankly, remain perturbed by the police’s totally ineffectual response on Monday night.