Take politics out of the NHS

IF A&E PATIENTS were looking for remedies to the difficulties afflicting Yorkshire’s hospitals at Prime Minister’s Questions, they were sadly mistaken.

Rather than the main parties coming up with constructive contingency plans to help those hospitals, like Scarborough, which have been forced to restrict admissions, David Cameron and Ed Miliband became engaged in a phoney battle of semantics.

This was politics at its most counter-productive. The Labour leader said the NHS was facing a “crisis” and wanted Mr Cameron to admit as much. The Prime Minister declined, attributing the difficulties to services coming under “huge pressure”. It was the same with the next exchanges as Mr Miliband, the Doncaster North MP, challenged the Tory leader to “apologise” and Mr Cameron speaking of his “deep regret”.

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If this is the foretaste of the election – Mr Miliband accused the Tory health policy of being “disgusting” before the Prime Minister listed the additional doctors and nurses recruited since 2010 – is it any wonder that the actual turnout is likely to be deeply embarrassing to one of the great democracies of the world?

Amid the continuing blame game over which party presided over the breakdown in out-of-hours care which has left ambulance services, and A&E units, at breaking point, the Prime Minister did make an important point – the NHS needs to plan for the short, medium and long-term so waiting time targets are met.

Yet, with the main parties reluctant to engage in cross-party talks due to a fear of being shown up by their rivals and also Mr Miliband’s reported desire to “weaponise” the NHS for electoral gain, perhaps the time has come, as the Archbishop of York intimated recently, for politics to be taken out of the NHS. After all, a team of independent experts could not do any worse than this war of words.

Stress in schools: Wellbeing is a matter for all

GIVEN that the number one objective for all secondary schools is to provide their pupils with the best possible start in life, it is understandable that the main focus is on GCSE and A-level results. These have the potential to make or break a young person’s career prospects.

Yet it is also important that teachers are aware of the emotional needs of their students as they make the often challenging transition to adulthood. It is why a health think-tank now says that schools should introduce wellbeing heads to monitor the physical and mental health of children and teachers alike.

It is a thoughtful proposition, given the levels of stress that are experienced in schools across Yorkshire on a daily basis, but it does need to be placed in the context of the public finances and the fact that schools only have a finite amount of resources available to them.

Are the researchers seriously suggesting that the appointment of a head of wellbeing should take precedence over the recruitment of an experienced teacher in a core subject like English or maths? And what about the role of parents in the upbringing of their offspring?

While many mothers and fathers do play an active role in the education of their children, and it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge this, a significant number continue to abdicate their responsibilities and expect teachers to be surrogate parents. This is wrong. Education remains a three-way partnership between teachers, parents and pupils and there should not be the need for heads of wellbeing if this relationship remains strong.

The Boris factor: Personalities matter in politics

IT WOULD be naive of critics of Boris Johnson to under-estimate the erstwhile Mayor of London following his campaign visit to West Yorkshire yesterday. Despite his wind-swept appearance, and a tendency to use obscure language to make his point, he has become one of Britain’s most formidable political operators thanks to his stewardship of the capital.

He is one of the few politicians, Nigel Farage being another, whose personality resonates with an electorate which has become apathetic because of the tendency of the main parties to select robotic-like leaders. The reason is a simple one – both men continue to speak their minds and refuse to conform to the suffocating wishes of their party spin doctors.

Yet, as the 2015 election draws nearer, the same question applies to both Mr Johnson, who likes to be portrayed as a lovable buffoon, and the Ukip leader. Would you trust either man with running the country?