Tom Richmond: Named and shamed – the NHS ministers asleep on the job

A&E and social care is in crisis, with Ministers asleep on the job according to columnist Tom Richmond. Do you agree?
A&E and social care is in crisis, with Ministers asleep on the job according to columnist Tom Richmond. Do you agree?
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IF two of Theresa May’s supposedly key Cabinet ministers were not fast asleep on the job, she would not have been left floundering at Prime Minister’s Questions over care of the elderly.

Twenty four hours earlier, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid sidestepped questions from Radio Four’s chief inquisitor John Humphrys about a medically-fit patient waiting six months to be discharged from hospital and related matters – he described current concerns as “very challenging” rather than a “crisis”. Really?

Hours later, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – Mr NHS – declined to respond to concerns expressed by MPs at health questions about social care and then difficulties obtaining GP appointments. Cowardly, he deferred these matters to his deputy David Mowat. He only found his voice on those issues where he could attack Labour. Later in the week, it became clear why – A&E patients had just experienced the worst month of delays since the four-hour target was introduced 13 years ago as hospitals recruit corridor nurses to treat the sick and seriously-ill who can’t be allocated a bed.

This complacency must not continue – it’s damaging the nation’s health and wealth. A report by the National Audit office reveals that plans to amalgamate hospital and NHS care provision are already a costly failure with more elderly patients being admitted to hospital . Poor planning, weak leadership and ineffectual management are all to blame.

It’s so bad that former pensions minister Ros Altmann, one of the more independent-minded Tory peers and a regular contributor to The Yorkshire Post, produced a briefing paper in which she said looming difficulties are far worse than the “pensions crisis”.

As the two relevant ministers are in denial, here – for Mrs May’s benefit – is Baroness Altmann’s analysis: “There is no money at Government level – it’s all left to cash-strapped councils who cannot cope. There is no money at private level either, because most people have not seriously considered this issue, wrongly assuming the NHS will look after them. This is short-sighted policy-making at its worst.

“The fact that the social care system is so poorly understood and that there are no incentives to help people plan for such costs just in case it is needed, has led to a complete lack of preparedness. The cohort of older people needing care now is actually relatively small, but in 20 years or so the huge demographic bulge of baby boomers will increasingly need looking after as they reach their 80s.”

Her remedies include keeping small local hospitals open as ‘convalescent homes’. Like it or not, both the Government and individuals are going to have to increase their financial obligations. The question is by how much and what care should the elderly expect by right? Hoping for the best until they’re reshuffled to new jobs, the current approach of the Ministers concerned, could not be a greater dereliction of duty.

JANE Collins, Ukip’s MEP for Yorkshire, was ordered by London’s High Court to pay a total of £162,000 in damages to Rotherham’s three Labour MPs over remarks she made about the town’s child abuse scandal.

Sir Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley, John Healey, who represents Wentworth and Dearne, and Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, sued Ms Collins for libel and slander over a speech at Ukip’s conference in September 2014 – a month after a report found about 1,400 children in the area had been abused between 1997 and 2013.

The judge said she alleged that each of the MPs deliberately chose not to intervene. Given how Ms Collins repeatedly refused to withdraw the comments, why has she not resigned?

Ukip would be the first to call foul if its opponents behaved so reprehensibly.

ANOTHER week and another Brexit concession by Theresa May, this time allowing MPs the chance to vote on the agreed terms of Britain’s exit from the EU six months before the formal departure date.

As I wrote last week, this backtracking – and the fact that there has now been the first Tory rebellion in the Commons – suggests the Prime Minister does not enter negotiations from a position of strength.

TALKING of Brexit, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the SNP’s contribution at Westminster. Like it or not, its Commons leader Angus Robertson uses Prime Minister’s Questions to raise serious issues in a statesmanlike manner while EU spokesman Stephen Gethins, is proving to be a formidable advocate for Scotland for a MP only elected in 2015. Irrespective of views on Scottish nationalism, Parliament needs inquisitors like this to hold the Government to account. Labour should take note.

THERE are two other possible explanations for Speaker John Bercow’s outburst against Donald Trump’s state visit – either he wants support to retain the post beyond 2018 or he intends to step down and wants to boost the fee that his memoirs might accrue. I rule neither scenario out if he survives the vote of no confidence tabled by a Tory MP.

SCARBOROUGH MP Robert Goodwill – the current Immigration Minister – doesn’t fare well in a forthcoming book Bike Nation: How Cycling Can Save The World. When Transport Minister, he was asked by author Peter Walker why relatively few women ride bicycles and “breezily recollected how his wife had once told him she worried about getting ‘helmet hair’ if she rode a bike”.

As the author notes: “This was the man with ultimate responsibility for cycling in the UK. We should despair.”

And whose constituency continues to feature prominently on the Tour de Yorkshire route.

DESPITE priding itself on being the ‘Olympic broadcaster’, and despite Great Britain winning a historic diving gold in Rio courtesy of Leeds-based likely lads Jack Laugher and Chris Mears, pictured, what a shame the BBC could not bring itself to broadcast last weekend’s national championships in Plymouth. Given the interest in those sports where Team GB excelled, and how the Corporation became the cheerleader for boxer Audley Harrison after his heavyweight boxing triumph in 2000, the stench of double standards is as intoxicating as the chlorine in the local swimming pool.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk