Yorkshire and a year for heroes

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TWELVE HEROES for 12 days of Christmas. The recipients of The Yorkshire Post’s honours could not be more deserving of such recognition; they have all led by example or, in the case of the family of murdered Leeds teacher Ann Maguire, shown enormous humility and forbearance following a simply indescribable personal tragedy that shocked the nation.

TWELVE HEROES for 12 days of Christmas. The recipients of The Yorkshire Post’s honours could not be more deserving of such recognition; they have all led by example or, in the case of the family of murdered Leeds teacher Ann Maguire, shown enormous humility and forbearance following a simply indescribable personal tragedy that shocked the nation.

Yet these shining lights, whose number also includes the Tour-makers whose enthusiasm was integral to the Grand Départ and the Yorkshire medics now risking their lives to help Ebola victims in Africa, are indicative of the spirit of generosity that is so alive and well in God’s own county this Christmas.

Generosity is a positive attribute that should not just be solely measured by the amount spent by individuals in the last-minute shopping frenzy which is the precursor to the Boxing Day sales; it also goes to the heart of this county’s DNA and is exemplified by the sacrifices being made by all those who will be helping the less fortunate over the festive period.

Without the commitment of an army of NHS staff working round the clock at this region’s hospitals, and this county’s enduring charity ethos which has inspired so many people to volunteer for noble causes or to tend to the everyday needs of the frail and vulnerable, Yorkshire would be a much poorer place.

It is only right that this commitment, and sense of duty, is recognised. In a corrosive era of negative political campaigning and scepticism, it is all too easy to highlight the failures and ignore the positive contribution that so many people make to help to enrich the lives of others.

In their own way, such individuals are all unsung heroes and deserving of two small words this Christmas which are not spoken often enough: Thank you.

NHS at Christmas

Out-of-hours care at crisis point

THE NHS was always going to be under the microscope this Christmas, not least because of the proximity of the 2015 election and the deep mistrust between the Tories and Labour.

It was self-evident when plans to prioritise the most urgent of 999 calls led to vicious exchanges between Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his opposite number Andy Burnham, and prompted the Archbishop of York to appeal, in vain, for a political consensus with regard to the NHS.

Dr Sentamu’s call-to-arms has even more resonance as patients queue round-the-block for appointments at one GP surgery while health academics urge the elderly with ailments to seek the counsel of their pharmacist, or use the 111 non-emergency helpline, in order to ease the strain on doctors and hospitals.

While it is up to families and individuals to be responsible, and to use the NHS out-of-hours service most commensurate with their health needs, it is only a sticking plaster solution as politicians continue to play the “blame game”.

Yes, it was naive of Tony Blair’s government not to expect family surgeries to provide cover at night, and at weekends, when GP contracts were re-negotiated a decade ago, but equally the coalition has not done enough to remedy this.

As such, the consequence of Andrew Lansley’s top-down reorganisation of the NHS – which was excluded from the Tory election manifesto in 2010 – is a state of affairs where young people opt to go to casualty, rather than their GP, because of the difficulties in obtaining an appointment with their doctor. Unless addressed, the current crisis is only going to get worse with time.

War and peace

Lessons from the 1914 trenches

IF only the Christmas Truce had lasted. For many families, and especially those who lost ancestors in the First World War, this will be the abiding thought as they reflect on the events of 100 years ago – and the spontaneous games of football which broke out between British and German soldiers.

Such sentiments are even more evocative because the war that was supposed to end all wars, and did not, has just been commemorated by the tribute to end all tributes at the Tower of London when 888,246 ceramic poppies were planted in honour of every British and Commonwealth soldier killed in the conflict.

Though some feared that this year’s events of remembrance would glorify war, those concerns have been allayed by the poignancy of the commemorations and the disclosure of artefacts, such as the letters posted home from the trenches at Christmas 1914, which have helped make younger generations far more appreciative of the sacrifices made by their forebears as well as the futility of war. Long may this continue.