Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Too little, too late

More than 400,000 patients have now waited longer than 18 weeks for their operations compared to less than 250,880 in 2010.
10% of arrivals at A&E are still waiting to be seen 4 hours later. More than 50,000 patients each month are now waiting more than 4 hours in A&E from the time a decision has been taken to admit them to hospital until the admission takes place.
Patients arriving at A&E by ambulance are meant to be handed over to staff within 15 minutes. Between 20th November to 31st December, more than 75,000 patients waited for over 30 minutes in the back of ambulances so far this winter. 17,000 patients waited over 60 minutes.
In the week running up to Christmas, over one third of children’s care units were 100% full, with not a single spare bed.
This week, the new Conservative Health Minister told us that we shouldn’t be concerned that, at times, there are no beds to which patients can be admitted, as there are always chairs, so they don’t have to lie on the floor! Can you believe it?
At the same time we learned that hospitals have already been advised to defer non-urgent operations until the end of January to ease pressures. This is an unprecedented move. It is likely that 55,000 operations will be cancelled, with knock-on effects throughout the rest of the year at least.
When interviewed by Andrew Marr on TV, the Prime Minister told us that this was all part of a carefully planned arrangement to deal with winter pressures and that “the NHS is better prepared for winter than ever before.”
Given that we haven’t had a flu epidemic (although numbers have increased in the last week), that novo-virus isn’t running riot, and that ‘winter weather accident admissions’ are lower than normal, this is a staggering decision. Even Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, a practicing GP and Chair of the Health Select Committee, warned that Theresa May must “get a better grip”.
All last year, the government was warned consistently about the looming crisis, but it wasn’t until 22nd November that the Chancellor announced some extra funds to meet winter pressures.
Too little, too late.

Monday, 8 January 2018


Right now, all four local authorities in South Yorkshire should be planning for the May 2018 election of the first Directly-elected Mayor for the Sheffield City Region.  The election of that mayor will provide the opportunity for an additional £30million of Government money to come to the area to improve economic development, transport links and skills training.   All of these have been welcomed by all the local councils and by business leaders and the wider community.  
I’m very strongly of the view that there would be immense advantages for areas within north Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to be part of those arrangements as well. Their economic prospects are fundamentally related to South Yorkshire. But, it is for them to decide.
Any devolution proposal is a compromise between competing perspectives and priorities. But disagreements should be healthy and constructive. In South Yorkshire, we are in real danger of making ‘the best’ the enemy of ‘the much better’ to the disadvantage of us all.
The Secretary of State suggests we go ahead with the devolution deal which has already been agreed for the four South Yorkshire districts. That appears eminently sensible. 
Everyone needs to recognise that there is no other deal on the table, nor is there a realistic possibility of any such deal being agreed in the immediate future.  The Minister says that, if at some stage in the future there is another deal offered for all or part of Yorkshire and some districts want to join that arrangement, they would be able to do so.   If they don’t, the existing arrangements would respect that  and carry on funding it.
This seems a win/win situation for everyone.   South Yorkshire gets a directly-elected mayor, and immediate additional money and powers.   If, in the long term, a different proposal is offered, districts can choose to opt for that without encumbrance. 
From a personal point of view, I do not believe an elected mayor for the whole of Yorkshire is feasible and will not work.  
But that is a debate for another day. Right now, we need to press ahead with the agreed deal for the benefit of the whole of South Yorkshire.