GPs are at the fulcrum of NHS

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AT LEAST the family doctors at an overstretched surgery in Halifax were being honest when they sent out a letter to its 10,000 patients saying appointments would be restricted to “medically urgent” cases. The missive included this perturbing warning: “The GPs at Keighley Road already work more than full time hours and are dealing with an unsustainable number of patients each day. It is simply no longer safe for them or for you.”

Yet, while this SOS for help does seem rather extreme, it chimes with the British Medical Association’s recent warnings about the increased workload facing GP practices and how some surgeries are at breaking point because there are simply not enough staff – or hours in the day – to keep up with the demands of an ageing society, and the desire of NHS chiefs for the elderly and infirm to be looked after in their opwn homes where possible.

Even though David Cameron will say that the coalition is recruiting more doctors – and hospital staff for that matter – he cannot afford to bury his head in the proverbial sand any longer. The statistics that he trots out at Prime Minister’s Questions offer no reassurance to those patients at Keighley Road surgery who are now being denied medical expertise and advice through no fault of their own. They simply want to know when a normal service will be resumed, never mind the related issue of out-of-hours care which remains a perennial problem across this region.

Mr Cameron also needs to remember that GPs are at the fulcrum of the National Health Service. If doctors have the time to diagnose ailments at the outset, the benefits will be three-fold – patients are reassured, they’re less likely to be an even greater burden on the NHS and it will reduce the number of instances when individuals feel compelled to go to A&E and add to the strained workload of hospitals.

All road users must be respected

THE SHARP increase in serious accidents and fatalities on Britain’s roads does need to be placed in proper perspective. Compared to the previous winter when Yorkshire was snow-bound for several weeks, there were many more motorists and cyclists on the roads during the first three months of 2014.

Nevertheless, this should not get away from the simple fact that one death – or injury – is one too many and another contributory factor is likely to be the resurgence in cycling after riders of all ages and abilities were inspired by the Tour de France.

Respect on the roads needs to be a two-way street. Bicycle riders need to be aware, and compliant, with the laws of the road – for example red lights do apply to them – and be alert to the legal requirement to be visible at all times. Equally, there are clearly a number of motorists who could do with a lesson or two in road etiquette; just because they do not like cyclists is no excuse or justification for aggressive and dangerous driving.

Moving forward, two things need to happen. First, there need to be sufficient police patrols so reckless road users – whether drivers or cyclists – can be identified and appropriate action taken. Second, the Government and local authorities need to prioritise plans to build cycleways, particularly along those commuter routes where the dangers are greatest.

These data are another reminder that all future planning applications should be bicycle-proofed at the outset – provision for cyclists should, where appropriate, be a key component of every new housing, retail or commercial development.

How sport breaks down barriers

IN many respects, the financial benefits of the Special Olympics bringing their National Summer Games to Sheffield in 2017 are of secondary importance to the wider social benefits which continue to be derived from an organisation that was founded by President John F Kennedy’s sister, Eunice, to help people with learning disabilities to fulfil their own sporting dreams.

It deserves to be a resounding success. For, compared to the late 1960s when the Paralympic movement was still in its infancy, attitudes have changed and disabled competitors are just as likely to be role models as able-bodies athletes like Sheffield’s very own golden girl, Jessica Ennis-Hill.

However, people with intellectual disabilities do still have to overcome barriers in their daily lives because of unfair stereotypes or misconceptions, and the staging of these games will be yet another example of sport’s importance as a force for good in society.