THE SPECIAL pleading from NHS chiefs does need to be placed in wider political context.
The latest intervention, including dire predictions that hospitals will have to make “unpalatable” decisions about care levels and jobs, is a warning shot ahead of the Autumn Statement when Theresa May’s government will finally set out its spending parameters.
NHS Providers – the trade body for health trusts – is also acutely aware of public opinion. Even though the Prime Minister has still to reveal her definition of ‘Brexit means Brexit’, many voters supported the Leave campaign in the EU referendum so more money could be diverted to the National Health Service, care of OAPs and retention of A&E cover in towns like Huddersfield. They will only tolerate Mrs May’s fence-sitting for so long.
However, NHS Providers, and others, do also need to accept some responsibility. The blank-cheque approach to policy-making, which they advocate, is one reason why David Cameron’s coalition inherited a record deficit in 2010 while the NHS is creaking, in part, because its management has become too costly and convoluted.
Rather than putting patients first, there are too many examples of bureaucrats putting bureaucrats first, such as the truly deplorable decision to create a new £240,000 role for shamed executive Katrina Percy after she stepped down as head of the scandal-hit Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. The new job was not even advertised.
Until this culture of cronyism is cured – and it won’t happen when so many decision-making powers rest with unelected executives rather than elected representatives – even more money will be squandered. Just think how many doctors, nurses and carers could be recruited if the NHS was challenged to cut its management costs by one quarter. Perhaps NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson might care to take the trouble to respond to this specific criticism.
Where is long-term energy plan?
BY MERGING the business and energy departments, Theresa May signalled a desire for closer policy co-ordination. By declining to sign off the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station until she has studied all the evidence, the Tory leader showed that she will be a hands-on PM.
It is important that decisions are not taken on a piecemeal basis. Unless Britain develops a long-term energy policy, more major manufacturers will have to limit production at peak times because of insufficient supplies of electricity. That won’t help power the post-Brexit economy.
It is even more important that the Government utilises Yorkshire’s burgeoning green technology – not only will this provide new sources of power, but the offshore wind sector has the potential to transform Hull and East Yorkshire’s economic landscape.
However, the stop-start nature of policy-making means opportunities are not being maximised. Even though Ministers are fully committed to a low carbon economy, the last Government did scrap the pioneering £1bn White Rose CCS project which would have seen this region – and Britain – become a world leader in carbon capture and storage.
These mixed messages must stop. When the PM delivers her verdict on Hinkley Point this month, it will be a dereliction of duty if she does not set out a clear energy policy which is built to last. After all, this one decision will have long-term repercussions for the whole country.
Inspirations to all
LIKE Yorkshire’s great Olympians, this county’s Paralympians are inspiring in equal measure – whether it be Team GB’s poster girl, Hannah Cockroft, defending her wheelchair sprint title or the multi-talented Kadeena Cox, from Leeds, who followed up her bronze on the athletics track by winning gold in cycling’s velodrome. A measure of her achievement is she’s the first competitor to medal in two sports at the same Games since 1988.
As Brazilians embrace the Paralympics, and turn these games into a carnival of humanity, what is again shining through is the endearing personalities of this country’s champions. Down-to-earth individuals who have shown extraordinary resilience in the face of personal humility, it is to their eternal credit that they want to make their mark on the world as elite athletes rather than disabled ‘superheroes’. This positivity is truly humbling and let’s hope Leeds and Yorkshire hosts a homecoming to remember on September 28 when our Olympians and Paralympians come together to celebrate the power of sport.