Wake-up call on loneliness

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THE eloquent words of Doreen Watt in today’s newspaper are another powerful reminder to the NHS of the need to recognise loneliness as a medical condition, and to ensure that people living alone, for whatever reason, have sufficient support when battling serious illnesses like cancer.

THE eloquent words of Doreen Watt in today’s newspaper are another powerful reminder to the NHS of the need to recognise loneliness as a medical condition, and to ensure that people living alone, for whatever reason, have sufficient support when battling serious illnesses like cancer.

“When I got home, that is when it hit me,” said the 67-year-old, who has given her name to a new campaign by Macmillan Cancer Support to highlight the plight of 40,000 patients across Yorkshire who could become housebound, and unable to feed themselves, because of a lack of empathy on the part of care agencies.

She added: “I felt very isolated and lonely and lost my confidence. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, I didn’t feel like cooking or doing jobs round the house – I didn’t have the motivation to do anything.”

Such honesty is revealing. If people have not got the inclination to prepare a nutritious meal that will help with their recovery, or do not have any friends or family who can rally round, their health will inevitably suffer.

This is why it is important that doctors ensure that community support services are sufficient and can withstand the latest round of council cuts.

Even though awareness is still growing about the consequences of “loneliness”, Britain’s changing demographics mean that more people will be living alone in the future – and that this will have far-reaching repercussions for the NHS. According to Macmillan Cancer Support’s chief executive Ciaran Devane, the number of cancer patients living on their own will double from two to four million over the next 20 years.

While the tireless work of Macmillan is invaluable and often taken for granted, the charity admits that it “can’t help everyone who needs us now, let alone those who will need us in the future” and that the time has come for NHS policy-makers to face up to “this looming loneliness epidemic”.

It is a wake-up call that needs to be heeded unless the powers-that-be are content for more people like Doreen Watt to suffer in silence.

Budget bust-up

Calderdale Council facing paralysis

EVEN though coalition government was a relatively rare concept in Britain before the Tories and Liberal Democrats joined forces in 2010, rival parties have a long history of putting their differences to one side to ensure the smooth and professional running of town halls across Yorkshire.

This spirit of co-operation is essential when a council is left in “no overall control” after an election and a party, invariably the one with the most councillors, needs the support of rivals in order to take key decisions, pass budgets and so on.

As British politics becomes more fragmented, even more so if Ukip continues to gather support because voters are disillusioned with the main parties, an increasing number of town halls could become “hung” in future. This can be a virtue. Such checks and balances can, for example, prevent a party pushing through radical changes without proper consultation.

The downside is when a lack of clear leadership threatens a budget stalemate, the unfolding scenario in Calderdale where the budget plans of the minority Labour administration are being challenged by opposition Tory and Lib Dems who want to reverse some recent increases to parking charges and take a tougher stand over staff sickness.

Here, the grandstanding between the main parties, a possible precursor to the next general election campaign, is such that they are prepared to risk paralysis, despite claiming to have the best interests of Calderdale at heart, because they seem to be unable to work together and agree a basic budget for the next 12 months.

This needs to change. The type of behaviour normally associated with Westminster, most people actually expect better of their councillors and believe that the provision of local services should be free from the type of party political shenanigans now taking place.

Fuel fairness

Rural motorists need safeguards

FIRST the good news. Fuel prices in Yorkshire are still the cheapest in Britain – small consolation for those paying a heavy price for the relentless rise in the cost of motoring.

Now the bad news. Drivers in rural areas continue to pay above average prices, They also have no choice because of the limitations of public transport in areas like North Yorkshire.

And it gets worse, with the AA now claiming that the major supermarkets are deliberately inflating their prices in rural locations, presumably because they can enhance their profit margins as a consequence.

If past form is accurate, the build-up to next month’s Budget will revolve around the issue of fuel duty – and will see Chancellor George Osborne scrap a proposed rise and talk, triumphantly, about securing “a fairer deal for motorists”.

If he is being sincere, he will look to speed up the implementation of the Treasury’s fuel discount scheme for certain areas, such as Hawes.

Furthermore, Mr Osborne will also force the supermarkets to explain themselves if their prices vary by four pence a litre – or more – in neighbouring towns. He will not hesitate to do so if he is serious about the notion of fairness, a defining theme of these times.