YP Comment: Time to reopen care homes

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FOR all the well-meant hospital initiatives and parliamentary questions fired at health ministers, the problem of bed-blocking continues to plague the NHS.

In common with the rest of the country, Yorkshire hospitals find themselves facing a losing battle. The region’s trusts spent £32m on care for patients fit enough to leave their beds in the last financial year.

It is this singular lack of progress that explains why few bat an eyelid when a think-tank predicts that the issue will eat up £3.3bn of the health service budget over the next five years.

However bed-blocking should not be considered an unavoidable annoyance. It is a blight not only on the country’s finances but also the health and morale of those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves marooned in a hospital bed despite being well enough to leave.
An ageing population and enforced constraints on hospital budgets have played their part, but the biggest cause is the decimation of social care services, resulting in delays in the necessary community care arrangements being put in place for older people leaving hospital. Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to permit local authorities to add a two per cent increase to council tax bills could help to avert the gathering social care crisis, but with no stipulations as to precisely where councils spend the money, nothing is guaranteed.

Given that it costs twice as much to keep someone in a hospital bed as it does to provide a space in a nursing home, the most sensible course of action would be for councils to use this revenue stream to reverse the care home closures that have characterised the last few years. Only then can we hope to see some of that £3.3bn being put to better use.

Given the burden of competing care demands they face, however, there must be serious doubts as to whether it will stretch that far.

The odd couple

Morrisons links up with Amazon

ON the surface at least, the notion of Morrisons and Amazon entering into partnership together seems an odd fit. But dig a little deeper and the deal between the most traditional of the Big Four supermarkets and the ever evolving online giant makes more sense.

Despite its belated efforts, the Yorkshire-based chain’s attempts to build an online presence have enjoyed scant success. Having given the likes of Sainsbury’s and Tesco such a hefty head start, something radical was required for it to grab a decent share of the growing digital market. So while some might suggest Morrisons is sowing the seeds of its own downfall by linking up with Amazon, in truth it had nothing to lose.

And the benefits appear considerable. Amazon brings with it a significant customer base in the form of Prime subscribers who pay £79 a year to have access to perks including the site’s Amazon Pantry store selling groceries and household products.

For Amazon, the fact that Morrisons is the most vertically integrated of the major supermarkets – in other words, it produces more of its own products than anyone else – makes it an ideal conduit for gaining a foothold in the UK food retail market.

Seemingly stuck in limbo and unsure whether to stick or twist as the traditional supermarket model gave way beneath its feet, Morrisons chief executive David Potts is at last providing a much-needed sense of direction for the chain, reflected in its share price climbing by nearly five per cent on the back of the Amazon announcement.

The biggest question now will be whether Amazon’s subscribers are sufficiently impressed by the standard of Morrisons’ goods to turn such short-term gains into a long-term success that revives the supermarket’s fortunes.

Oscar delight

Yorkshire film maker triumphs

AMID the carefully choreographed glamour and controversy of this year’s Oscars, it was refreshing to see a winner that reminded us a good film doesn’t need an A-list star or six-figure advertising campaign to succeed.

Stutterer was conceived over a dinner table and funded by its makers putting their hands in their own pockets. It tells the story of the struggles of a young man with a speech impediment who has to face his greatest fear: meeting and speaking to his new-found love in person.

The bittersweet film has struck a chord with audiences around the world, picking up a slew of awards on what its producer, Serena Armitage from York, has described as “an absolutely insane journey”.

It is one that culminated with Armitage clutching an iconic statuette in the heart of Hollywood – a win of which all Yorkshire can be proud.