YP Comment: NHS staff crisis must be treated '“ agency staff are false economy

IF ever there was a false economy, it's the £171m that Yorkshire's cash-strapped hospitals spent last year on agency staff to cover a chronic shortage of doctors and nurses.

Use of agency staff in Yorkshire's hospitals is a false economy.

This is not to belittle those medical staff who worked ad hoc shifts. Quite the opposite. Without their flexibility, and professionalism, the NHS simply would have been unable to function so effectively over the past 12 months despite its many financial challenges.

Yet, at a time when hospital trusts across the region are heavily over-budget, it’s even more important that the Department of Health puts in place measures to remedy this staffing crisis.

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Whether it is creating new places at medical school, changing the culture so experienced staff do not leave the profession prematurely or building better relations with junior doctors, this is one emergency which the Government needs to answer quickly. This matters. Patients, particularly the elderly, like continuity of care – it reassures them, and their families, at a stressful time in their lives. It is also more difficult for hospital departments to create a ‘team’ – a word synonymous with Team GB’s successes at the Rio Olympics – if they’re having to call up agency staff routinely rather than in exceptional circumstances.

Until hospitals and health trusts have a sufficient pool of talent to draw upon, the NHS will, like it or not, have to recruit more medical staff from overseas so patients can receive the care that they have a right to expect following scandals like Mid Staffs.

As such, it is vital that Britain’s Brexit negotiations – and the knock-on effects for immigration policy – take account of this urgent necessity. Just think how many full-time doctors and nurses could have been hired for the £171m spent on agency staff in Yorkshire alone.

Winning attitude

INSTRUMENTAL to the success enjoyed by Leeds Rhinos in past seasons, Stevie Ward is already regarded as a special sportsman. Yet the rugby league player is also proving, at the tender age of 22, to be an even more impressive individual away from the field of play. After suffering depression as he struggled to come to terms with a lengthy injury-lay off at the outset of his career, he has used his latest long-term spell on the sidelines to launch an online magazine, Mantality, to help – and encourage – others facing a similar predicament.

This would not be possible without the Morley-born player first coming to terms with the fragility of his own self-belief – and then having the courage to speak out so eloquently about his own demons so others do not suffer in silence. So long a taboo subject, this brave example is further evidence that attitudes are changing, and for the better, when it comes to mental health and related conditions like loneliness.

Thankfully, there is political recognition that more needs to be done – Theresa May alluded to this on the steps of 10 Downing Street when she became PM last month – but it will require sustained pressure to ensure that there is support in place for those who have the misfortune to suffer from ‘hidden’ illnesses like depression.

If more people are able to show greater candour, and take positive action, politicians will have to act. For Stevie Ward, this particular match assumes as much importance, if not more, than his own comeback.

The golden Games

CONCLUSIVE PROOF that Yorkshire is blessed by a ‘golden generation’ of Olympians is provided by the fact that boxer Nicola Adams will become the fourth champion from the white rose county, after Ed Clancy, Andrew Triggs-Hodge and Alistair Brownlee, to win gold at successive Olympics if she prevails in the ring today.

Victory for the pioneering Adams would showe that this county’s unprecedented success in 2012 was no fluke – and that the future of elite sport is in very safe hands thanks to the emergence of a new generation of stars poised to pick up the baton.

Yet, as the world reflects on the Rio Olympics ahead of tomorrow night’s closing ceremony, it would be remiss not to congratulate the whole of Team GB – competitors, coaches and back-room staff alike – for restoring this country’s faith in sport and humanity. What better way for the public to show their appreciation than the victory parade for Britain’s Olympians and Paralympians being staged in Yorkshire, a sporting county which continues to pack a punch like no other, rather than London and Manchester. Why should they have all the glory?