IT can only be hoped that the Government – and the rest of the country – does not catch a cold after NHS political surgery had to be put on hold because of the Brexit paralysis.
Not only did Ministers fail to publish long-overdue plans for the NHS, and also social care, before Parliament adjourned for Christmas, but there are concerns that the new Immigration White Paper will make it harder to recruit sufficient nurses and doctors from overseas in order to plug well-documented staff shortages.
All this at a time when thousands of patients are having to wait more than four weeks for an appointment to see their local doctor, according to new research, and Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, warning that hermembers are “worried” that they could overlook vital details because their workloads are becoming unsustainable.
The consequence is the region’s hospitals being put under even greater pressure because of well-documented shortcomings in out-of-hours GP cover and community care for the elderly and vulnerable.
Yet, while the Government is clearly playing for time when it comes to Brexit, it does not excuse the delay and dither over health reform and the future staffing of the NHS. For, if waiting times escalate, public and political sympathy for Ministers will be in very short supply.