Party Point – January 2013

John Clark writes…

First published: January 2013 – Gazette & Herald

Politicians should state what they believe and what they will try to achieve. The public choose which direction would be best for us all and vote accordingly. In the 2010 election there was a massive difference between politics and reality.

Proposals for Health did not even imply the present upheaval. ‘No top-down reorganisation’ promised the Tories. The Coalition Agreement confirmed the position. Within two months the largest ever reorganisation of the NHS in its 60 years history was underway. Worse, the ConDem NHS allows for up to 49% to be privatized. Even Mrs. Thatcher would not have dared to meddle with the NHS, let alone set about its destruction.

The latest dollop of ‘tell people what they want to hear’ comes from NYCC. “This Council, whilst acknowledging the financial issues facing the NHS North Yorkshire and York, considers there is no room to reduce the healthcare services currently provided to meet the immediate, urgent and unplanned needs of its local residents and its visitors, and expects 24/7 consultant-led Accident and Emergency Services, 24/7 consultant-led maternity and children’s services, and the opening days and hours of minor injuries units to remain at the level currently provided at the various District General Hospitals and Community Hospitals in the County of North Yorkshire“. Only the Liberals opposed.

This approach of keeping everything is unrealistic. An aging population and medical advances require an extra 2% per year over and above inflation. In North Yorkshire and York this would mean an extra £26million each year. This year North Yorkshire and York PCT is aiming to keep its deficit down to £19million. So as to achieve this, £10million of extra cuts are needed, including a reduction in the Malton Minor Injuries Unit as part of £10million extra cuts. These figures are disputed. The Turnaround Director suggests the debt by the end of this year may be £70million. It follows that the figure would be approximately £100million by the end of the following financial year. As a result the incoming Clinical Commissioning Groups will have to make savings, and quickly, before the situation deteriorates even further.

County councillor John Weighell, the Conservative Leader of NYCC criticized the NHS North Yorkshire and York for being bureaucratic and undemocratic. I agree. However, the problem is that the new system is no more democratic. The Clinical Commissioning Groups are even more bureaucratic – four groups for North Yorkshire and York compared with the previous PCT.

Of course the deficit could be reduced by putting in more money from taxation: Starbucks, Amazon, millionaires and bankers for a start.

Back to the reality in politics. Is it likely the ConDem government will have a tax hike to produce money for increased spending on health? Maybe the Conservatives, Lib. Dems and Independent County Councillors all of whom supported the motion, will persuade the ConDem government – I doubt it. On that basis there will have to be savings in North Yorkshire and York. Surely it would be better to keep money for the real needs:

  • Cancer treatment for the over 70’s and 80’s
  • High quality surgery for heart treatment
  • High quality treatment for strokes

Cuts will have to come in areas like Maternity Units and Minor Injury Units. Of course it would be ‘nice’ to carry on with these at present or even higher levels. However until those promising the earth also deliver the funding, don’t believe them.

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