THE politics of the NHS is depressingly familiar. Every criticism, however considered, is countered by the Government highlighting its £10bn real terms increase in funding – and Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, used this default defence after this week’s breakthrough in the junior doctors’ dispute.
However, Mr Hunt, who has been on borrowed time for many months, is deluding himself if thinks that this sum is either sufficient – or sustainable. The NHS deficit now stands at an all-time high of £2.45bn after spiralling out of control on this Health Secretary’s watch. And even though the final figure was marginally less than the most pessimistic forecasts, this is a service now lurching from one crisis to another because hospitals, GPs and others can’t keep pace with unprecedented demand for their expertise.
What the Health Secretary fails to appreciate, however, is that his much-vaunted £10bn cash injection is being used to prop up the fragile finances of those NHS trusts heavily in the red – the financial equivalent of a seriously ill patient on a life support machine – rather than putting the structures in place so hospitals, and GPs, can provide the best possible care on a 24/7 basis.
The fact that health organisations are resorting to creative accounting to mask the haemorrhaging of money is indicative of the extent to which Mr Hunt has lost control of the NHS. It’s exemplified by the proposed closure of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary’s A&E unit and other changes to casualty cover at hospitals along the M62 corridor – the clinical needs of patients, and communities, now come second to the never-ending demands of the health service’s financial services sector, one of the economy’s growth industries.
Unless the scale of this financial emergency is recognised, this £10bn will disappear very quickly. And then what? Even more A&E units closing – or a realisation that the NHS black hole requires even more extensive surgery so hospitals and so on can plan for the future with some confidence. That’s the choice facing Ministers.
A county open to all: Role of women in Yorkshire
ONE topical word explains the importance, and continuing need, of events like last night’s Yorkshire Women In Achievement celebration: Muirfield. This is the historic Scottish golf course stripped this week of the right to host The Open after members did not allow vote in sufficient numbers for females to become members of the men-only club owned and run by The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.
As long as these dinosaur-like attitudes persist, such occasions are necessary to celebrate the invaluable role of women in walks of life from the record-breaking Yorkshire Rows who paddled across the Atlantic to Jayne Senior, who blew the whistle onthe Rotherham sex grooming scandal to those selfless individuals making a difference in the region’s public services and those mothers simply being good mums to their children.
Unlike the stuffy, pompous and chauvinistic golfers of Muirfield, Yorkshire is far more enlightened and employers, both in the public and private sector, are far more accommodating of those who want to juggle their professional careers with the responsibility of bringing up a young family. More clearly needs to be done – police leaders have now recognised the need for women, and officers from ethnic minority backgrounds, in senior ranks so the region’s constabularies are more representative of the communities they serve.
Hopefully the day will soon come when women-only awards are perceived as demeaning, and quietly removed from the social calendar, because Yorkshire is open to all and found a way to embrace equality in a meritocracy – that’s the next challenge.
Home ground hero: Bairstow’s Headingley hundred
THE look to the skies said it all as Jonny Bairstow completed the run which brought up his first Test hundred at Headingley. If it was emotional for the spectators, it was even more poignant for the home ground hero as he cast his eyes towards those absent friends who have shaped his life and career.
On the back of a record-breaking 399-run partnership with Ben Stokes at Cape Town in early January, the brilliant Bairstow now looks certain – after a stop-start international career – to be one of the mainstays of the England batting order after these two innings of bravado and belligerence marked his coming of age as a world-class cricketer.
A modest player the cricketing family have clearly taken to their hearts, long may this be the case.