In Yorkshire alone, the NHS has shed 9,000 jobs since 2010 at double the national rate which has seen the workforce as a whole shrink by 36,000 staff.
But while many of these jobs, often highly paid executive positions, have clearly been expendable, with the number of managers in this region being reduced by an astonishing 35 per cent, this cost-cutting exercise has not left the frontline of clinical care untouched, with the number of nurses, midwives and health visitors in Yorkshire plunging by 1,500.
With too many health trusts mismanaged for far too long, it seems that nurses are frequently having to pay the price and the fact that many trusts are now having to draw up emergency plans to cope with growing pressures, particularly in accident and emergency departments, suggests that, while many managerial jobs have been eminently expendable, those on the frontline are decidedly not.
Clearly, if the NHS is to be expected to continue to bear its share of the cuts needed to reduce the public sector deficit, clinical jobs have to be protected. Yet, over the next two years, plans are already in place to shed a further 30,000 staff across the country with nursing jobs reduced by another four per cent.
According to the NHS regulator, Monitor, the only realistic way of further reducing the health bill without damaging frontline care is to undertake fundamental reorganisation of the way in which hospital and community services are provided.
The piecemeal reforms undertaken by the Government, however, and the absence of any meaningful health policy on the Labour benches, suggests that the NHS’s years of confusion and inefficiency are not over yet.
Ukip faces its sternest challenge
RIDING the crest of its electoral wave, the UK Independence Party may be unwilling to recognise the dilemmas that are now confronting it.
One of these is typified by the case of Godfrey Bloom, MEP for Yorkshire and Humber, who explains on the opposite page his relationship with a party that disowned him following one colourful comment too many.
Yet what is Ukip to do? Indulge outrageous behaviour by its leading representatives and make David Cameron’s verdict that the party consists of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” seem like fair comment?
Or remove the whip from anyone who steps out of line and risk losing its unique selling point, that it consists of non-politicians who stand in stark contrast to the carefully manicured images of the mainstream parties?
After all, if Ukip’s leading figures become like those of any other party, afraid to make any policy statement that has not been approved by focus groups and vetted by spin doctors, then much of the party’s appeal simply disappears.
Yet, as Ukip wrestles with this problem, Ed Miliband has unwittngly provided it with another. The Left-wing policies outlined by the Labour leader this week will have been music to the ears of many of the disillusioned Labour voters that Ukip had been hoping to attract. Yet they will also unnerve many others voters on the Right, especially those who are active in business and who immediately recognise the economic illiteracy of Mr Miliband’s agenda.
Whereas previously such voters may have been willing to desert the Conservatives for Ukip despite the risk of Labour gaining more seats as a result, the prospect of a Labour government has now become far more worrying and may make many think twice about abandoning the Tories.
Dealing with such complex electoral calculations, while growing up in public as a political party, presents Ukip with its sternest test yet. How Nigel Farage leads his band of novices over this tricky terrain may yet determine not only his party’s future but that of Britain itself.
Going for growth - But public sector blocks the way
WITH all political parties saying they are committed to raising the standard of living, it might be expected that the public sector would be acutely attuned to the need to encourage the economic growth essential to achieve this.
Lord Wolfson, however, the outspoken chief executive of Next, has identified a “profoundly anti-growth culture” in UK government institutions, with new retail parks, housing and roads often blocked by political considerations that come a poor second to the urgent need to develop the economy and provide jobs.
The Next boss has recent experience of this with his victory over Sheffield Council in his fight to build a home and garden store near Meadowhall. And there has been another example in Leeds with the Thorpe Park business park being finally approved this week.
The desire to protect city-centre trade is understandable, but the key to reviving town centres will not be found through choking off economic growth elsewhere. Finding an answer to this conundrum, however, requires courage and imagination, qualities not easily encountered in much of Britain’s public sect