YP Comment: NHS and the numbers game - May's challenge over hospitals

IT is important that the number of operations cancelled by Yorkshire hospitals in the past three years due to bed shortages is placed in perspective.

Is the NHS at breaking point?

Some will say it is testimony to efficient management that just 3,475 patients have seen their surgery cancelled at short notice. Others, however, will say it is further evidence that the NHS is at breaking pointdue to insufficient staff and ‘delayed discharges’.

Either way, the National Health Service – perhaps this country’s greatest post-war success – is still held in the highest of esteem as it enters its 70th year. The overwhelming majority of NHS users are more than satisfied with their care, and this is borne out by the individual testimonies from patients regularly published by The Yorkshire Post.

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Yet a significant number of these tributes do acknowledge the pressure facing frontline staff, pressure that Ministers were slow to acknowledge before Theresa May was left shame-faced by two nurses during the pre-election Question Time special in York. And this was further reflected by Mrs May’s exchanges with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this week. Though public sector pay is now a totemic political issue, the issue is far more nuanced.

For, while the Tory leader said more nurses are now employed by the NHS, more people are requiring treatment and this will continue to be the case thanks to people living longer and medical advances. Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s numbers game failed to acknowledge the acute shortage of community carers per se. Without them, pressure on hospitals will only intensify. Given this, today’s statistics show the need for a long-term health and social care plan joined at the proverbial hip and Mrs May, ahead of her first anniversary at PM, should be reaching out to others to achieve this. If she is unable to do so, her political position is even weaker than it appears.

Trump v Putin

THE FIRST meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will inevitably overshadow the G20 summit because of their respective penchants for machismo diplomacy.

Yet, while their initial brief encounter resulted in the warmest of hand-shakes, the more importance test is whether the two men can build a more constructive dialogue in the months to come.

It does not bode well – President Trump still appears intent on undertaking foreign policy via Twitter, if only to detract attention away from mounting scandal about the true scale of Russian interference in last year’s US election.

However the niceties for the cameras in Hamburg should not mask the fact that world peace is increasingly fragile, not least because of Russia’s acts of aggression that threaten Europe; the bloodshed in Syria and the rest of the Middle East and the nuclear ambitions of North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un.

If there’s any hope of progress being made on these three imponderables, it requires the type of dialogue that America and the then Soviet Union enjoyed in the era Of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev when both leaders, men of vision, were supported by world leaders of the stature of Helmut Kohl, Francois Mitterand and Margaret Thatcher.

With Europe now divided over mass migration and freedom of movements, factors which led to Britain backing Brexit, the need for strong global leadership has never been stronger. Unfortunately this will be a forlorn hope if America and Russia persist with their belligerent brinkmanship.

Thatcher’s statue

IF plans to erect a statue of Margaret Thatcher outside the Houses of Parliament are dropped because of concerns about vandalism, it will speak more about this country’s values, and the decline of respect and deference, rather than the policies that were pursued by Britain’s first female prime minister.

Even though Baroness Thatcher’s daughter Carol is said to be upset that the planned statue does not include her mother’s infamous handbag, an important principle is at stake – it is one of the great traditions of Britain that monuments are erected to prominent public figures who have played an important role in this country’s history.

These should include people from all walks of life, not just those revered and celebrated by the political left – or the hoodlums who once defaced the statue of Winston Churchill, the great defender of liberty, which stands proudly on Parliament Square. As such, the final decision on the Thatcher tribute will reveal if there’s any civic pride left in Britain – or not.