TODAY’S call for a new cross-party commission on the future of the NHS and social care is all the more significant – and powerful – because it does not come from the so-called ‘usual suspects’ in Parliament.
It has been endorsed by the leaders of several nationwide care charities with first-hand experience of dealing with people with life serious illnesses which affect the day-to-day lives of patients.
These are not political parties. They are much respected and much admired voluntary organisations whose tireless work actually inspired David Cameron’s vision of a Big Society in which he hoped that the expertise of the charitable sector would play a more prominent role in the provision of important sentences like the care of the elderly. When they speak out in this manner, and express concerns at the sheer number of patients who cannot be discharged from hospital because their care needs cannot be met in their local community, the Prime Minister is duty-bound to listen.
Their point is even more valid because ‘bed-blocking’ – a disparaging term which causes great offence, and rightly so, to the elderly – is already costing hospitals millions of pounds each year and exacerbating, still further, longstanding financial pressures. And, unless there is a closer correlations between hospitals and social care providers, the situation will only get worse – nearly a quarter of Britain’s population will be aged over 65 within the next two decades and the Government’s laudable increase in NHS spending is being more than offset by cuts to the services provided by local authorities. The ability of town halls to impose a two per cent levy on council tax bills, if they so desire, will not plug the hole.
That, alone, is sufficient reason for Mr Cameron to set up the commission. For a failure to act will not only be making matters worse for his successors – and all whose committed to providing compassionate healthcare from cradle to grave, and as intended by the founding fathers of the NHS. In short, the time has come for William Beveridge and Aneurin Bevan’s original vision to be renewed in light of 21st century challenges which could not have been envisaged 70 years ago.
The EU end game?
EVEN though political pressure forced David Cameron to give Cabinet colleagues the freedom to break ranks and campaign for Britain’s exit from the European Union if they so desire, the Prime Minister – and pro-Europe advocates – will be encouraged that Philip Hammond, a Foreign Secretary growing in stature, “can’t envisage” such a scenario.
This is a significant. Long regarded as a hawkish Eurosceptic, Mr Hammond’s determination to get the right settlement for the UK before putting the deal to the public lessens the likelihood of Mr Cameron and his Foreign Secretary taking opposing sides on this once-in-a-generation vote – Labour is still in turmoil six weeks after Jeremy Corbyn and Hilary Benn agreed to differ over RAF air strikes against Daesh targets in Syria.
Yet it would be remiss of Mr Hammond, or the Prime Minister for that matter, to under-estimate the scale of the challenge ahead of them. Any concessions from the EU will need to be legally water-tight, and there is still a belief that the Government has not been sufficiently ambitious with its demands, not least on those environmental policies said to have exacerbated Yorkshire’s floods. And then there’s the small matter of trying to convince the electorate in sufficient numbers – those who want Britain to remain part of a revised EU, primarily on business grounds, need to find their voices and present a clear and coherent case. At the moment, they are in danger of losing the argument.
Full steam ahead for Flying Scotsman
JUST like the trains of today, many will regard the Flying Scotsman’s nostalgic return to the railways as being better late than never following its much-delayed £4.2m restoration.
More than a decade after being purchased by York’s National Railway Museum, and after several setbacks which threatened to derail the whole project, this iconic green and black locomotive, the most recognisable in the world, looked as imposing as ever as it underwent a long-anticipated test run before the famous engine – built in Doncaster – makes more regular journeys.
Now the project is back on track, Yorkshire cannot lose. Not only will these trips celebrate this county’s engineering heritage, but they will be a magnet for rail buffs. It’s full steam ahead for a train like no other.