September 22: So much for the new NHS

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Promises that the health service would place a greater premium on listening to patients is not borne out by a rise in complaints.

IN light of promises that the Mid Staffordshire Trust scandal and the plethora of problems it unearthed would mark a sea change in the way the NHS operates, it is deeply disappointing that complaints from patients continue to rise.

The number of occasions on which the health ombudsman was required to intervene because individuals felt their complaint was not handled adequately by their local Trust rose in most parts of Yorkshire, indicating that the health service is, regrettably, heading in the wrong direction.

Worryingly, the nature of these complaints also suggests that vows that the NHS has turned over a new leaf lack real foundation.

Poor communication, including the quality and accuracy of information conveyed to patients, was a factor in one third of all complaints, while the attitude and behaviour of staff was another common theme.

Such a picture stands in stark contrast to the promises made two years ago that we would see a more open and communicative NHS in a which a premium was placed on listening to the needs and concerns of patients.

Complaints offer large organisations the opportunity to learn from their mistakes in order to continue to improve the service they provide. As such, they could – and should – be viewed in a positive light.

Furthermore, as a publicly-funded service, health officials must recognise that patients – having paid for their care through taxation – are essentially customers and should be treated accordingly.

These figures, however, offer a clear indication that this mindset has not yet taken root within the NHS at large. The only conclusion is that the organisation still has its work cut out in terms of being the patient-friendly service that the public were promised it would become.

Farming matters

Defra needs a strong voice

IT was perhaps pertinent as thousands of visitors flocked to the ever popular Nidderdale Show, which traditionally brings the agricultural summer show season to a close, that fears were once again raised about the future role of farming in this country.

Speaking at their party conference on the south coast yesterday, Liberal Democrat peer Kate Parminter, former chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), warned that agriculture faces the possibility of being marginalised if Defra is scrapped in the Autumn Spending Review.

She fears that if it is hived off to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, farming could be uprooted and taken out of its natural home, with Yorkshire’s rural and flood hit communities among those hardest hit.

Baroness Parminter is right to be concerned and ought to be applauded for speaking out.

Removing the link between farming and the countryside at Government level could have far reaching implications for those whose livelihoods depend on the careful management of the countryside and its precious resources.

Farming is about far more than mere facts and figures and cold, hard economics. It is also about a way of life, one that is inexorably tied to the environment and the rural communities that live and work on the land.

Countryside management requires a strong voice and also a united one. Anything less than this and we run the risk of our farming and rural communities becoming further isolated – and that would be disastrous, not only for Yorkshire but the entire country.

Cleaning up

Who should fund new sector?

CLEAN technology – products, services and processes that reduce waste and require as few non-renewable resources as possible – represents a huge growth market.

Innovative companies from this region such as environmentally-friendly cleaning company Xeros stand to play a big part in an industry that will help to make our planet a healthier, more self-sufficient place for the generations that follow.

So the disquiet voiced by John Cridland, director general of the CBI, over the Government’s decision to reduce subsidies to this sector in what it says is an effort to keep down household bills is understandable.

The real question, however, is not whether clean technology should be encouraged but how it should be funded. Householders already facing steep energy bills are entitled to wonder if, having been asked to foot the bill to get it off the ground, they will be entitled to a share of the profts when the sector takes off.