Wednesday, 10 January 2018

NHS needs better funding deal!

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian looks at the crisis in the National Health Service. It is as follows:

Last winter, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine publicised its concerns that “emergency care in the NHS” was at “crisis point.” At the same time, the Chief Executive of the British Red Cross claimed that the NHS was facing a “humanitarian crisis.”

Twelve months on, the situation has worsened. One headline figure being quoting in many newspapers is that a total of 55,000 “non-urgent” operations are likely to be postponed to help the NHS cope with increasing demands and winter pressures, which presently include an upsurge in sickness linked to the flu virus.

Much has been made of the fact that the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister have publicly apologised to those patients who have had their operations cancelled but, it is notable, they failed to address the depth of problems facing the National Health Service.

Interviewed on the BBC at the weekend, Theresa May continued to claim that hospitals were better prepared than ever before, and winter pressures have to be dealt with each and every year.

Sadly, there was no acknowledgement that there is a significant “mismatch between demand for services and funding.”

An independent charity, known as the “The King’s Fund,” recently detailed how the demand for health care is rising. It has reported: “The population is increasing; more people are living longer, often with multiple long-term conditions; and technological advances mean that new treatments are available. As a result, health services are treating more people than ever before.”

It is accurate to state that the health budget will increase by an average of 1.1 per cent a year between 2009/10 and 2020/21, but the cost of treatments are rising and hospital admissions have been going up, year on year, by nearly 4%.

It is therefore not surprising that “The King’s Fund” and other organisations have declared that the NHS is “enduring the most prolonged funding squeeze in its history.”

Likewise, the British Medical Association has stated that: “Each winter the pressure on the NHS worsens, and politicians are not taking the long-term view needed to ensure the NHS can keep up with rising demand.”

In this context of underfunding from central government, reforms are being promoted which local campaigners, especially here in Cornwall, are right to be worried about.

The Sustainability and Transformation Plan for the local NHS does not solve, but reinforces, historic financial problems; the possible centralisation of radiotherapy provision from Cornwall into Devon would make it harder and harder for Cornish families to access vital health services; and there have even been claims that some community hospitals could be downgraded.

A massive change in approach is needed at Westminster and, in the first instance, that means increased funding for health and social care.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

2018 – Groundhog Day?

In my article in today’s Cornish Guardian, I look ahead to 2018.

It is as follows:

When I was considering the content of my columns for the Cornish Guardian over the Christmas and New Year period, the editor suggested that I might look back over 2017 and “do a bit of a retrospective.”

It has certainly been an eventful year with council elections, a General Election and a great deal of political upheaval. But most of all, looking back and contrasting then to what is happening now, it all seems a bit “groundhog day.”

Early in 2017, we were digesting the news that Cornwall had the lowest economic performance of any nation in the United Kingdom. And now, twelve months on, the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics tell the same story.

England has a GVA per head of £27,108, which is 102.9% of the UK average, followed by Scotland on £24,800 (94.2%). Doing less well are Northern Ireland and Wales, with GVA figures of £19,997 (75.9%) and £19,140 (72.7%) respectively.

Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly) trail way behind with a GVA of £17,069 (64.8% of the UK average) and the ONS’s new approach to the statistics only seem to show the gap between Cornwall and the other nations of the UK to be wider.

So much for our call for the Government to tackle the over-centralised nature of the United Kingdom, and to end the inequalities between the various nations and regions of the UK.

Twelve months ago, I was writing about the unfairness of funding settlements for local councils and the irony of Conservative MPs lambasting their own Government for cuts that meant that local councils had not only “trimmed off” the fat, but had “gone through the surface of the bone” and, in some instances, were “sucking out the marrow.”

And yet, it has got worse, and councillors are presently having to consider sizable increases in council tax in an attempt to offset cuts in central government funding.

Twelve months ago, there was massive concern about the National Health Service, the crisis in social care, and the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan which would institutionalise underfunding of £270 million in the Cornish health service.

And now, the stress on the NHS continues to grow and grow, many people are worried about the possible ACO reorganisation of the health service and associated social care, and the issue of underfunding has simply not been addressed.

I could go on and list many more examples where, shamefully, little meaningful progress has been made.

And as we look ahead to 2018, it all shows that political change is desperately needed for Cornwall and the well-being of its citizens. Surely we should all be uniting to make that better deal for Cornwall a reality.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Cornish Guardian backs tickbox campaign

I am very pleased to see that the Cornish Guardian has backed the campaign for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census through its editorial in this week’s paper. It is as follows:

It’s time for the Government to give all Cornishmen and woman the recognition they deserve. Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole has led a delegation from Cornwall to Westminster to call for the Cornish tickbox option to be included on the next national census.

This cost-neutral gesture would allow Cornwall to be recognised on the same level as its Celtic cousins, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, all of which enjoy the privileges of a tickbox in the census.

In the last census in 2011, 13.8% of people in Cornwall self-identified as Cornish, using a blank box in the “other” section. Since then, Cornwall Council has been leading the campaign for change ahead of the next census in 2021.

Mr Cole, a fine champion for all things Cornish, correctly states that “the Cornish were officially recognised as a national minority more than three years ago.” The Council of Europe made a specific recommendation to the Office of National Statistics that it should consider the possibility to identify as Cornish in the next census. The time has come for ministers to embrace this simple but significant act.

Report on visit to London to push for tickbox

My report on my recent visit to the ONS policy forum to lobby for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census has appeared in this week’s Cornish Guardian

It is as follows:

On Wednesday 13th December, I was privileged to represent Cornwall Council at a Population and Public Policy forum in London. The event was organised by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to discuss the nature of certain questions on the upcoming 2021 census.

Topics included ethnicity / national identity and I was tasked to make the case for a Cornish tickbox, which followed a meeting with senior representatives from the ONS in August. Officers at the unitary authority have also submitted further documentation making the case for inclusion in the census, which is presently being considered by the ONS.

In my contribution to the London meeting, I reminded everyone present that, in April 2014, the UK Government had recognised the Cornish as a national group through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; and that it was stated the Cornish would be treated in the same manner as the “UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

I suggested to the seventy-plus delegates that it would therefore be inequitable if the Cornish – unlike the other national minorities – did not have a tickbox.

In addition, I thanked the ONS for their time but did it in Cornish and, surprisingly, for an event concerned about matters of identity, it was the only time that a language other than English was used!

In one presentation, it was confirmed that more than fifty groups had made representations on related matters, and I was particularly impressed by the strong attendance by members of the Sikh community at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre.

These included Preet Gill MP, chair of the All-Party Group for British Sikhs, who recently wrote that a Minister from the UK Government had told her they had an “open mind on the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the 2021 census.”

Their campaign is certainly very cohesive and effective. An adjournment debate is planned in Westminster, and the ONS have had meetings with academics and organised interviews with leading members of the Sikh community, plus a targeted online survey, to understand the need for statistics about the Sikh community.

Interestingly, in 2011, a total of 83,362 individuals self-identified as Sikh in the Cornwall, England and Wales census – a total similar to those who “wrote-in” Cornish (83,499) in the absence of a tickbox.

I therefore find it frustrating that the ONS has not been equally proactive in support of the Cornish case – especially as it is more than three years since official governmental recognition.

Looking forward, there is much campaigning still to be done, and it is my hope that Cornwall’s six MPs will follow the example of Preet Gill MP and get actively involved in lobbying the Government and the Office of National Statistics for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year

As we edge ever closer to the festive break, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year.

I would also like to thank all those people who have been supportive of my work throughout 2017, as both the councillor for St Enoder and as the leader of Mebyon Kernow.

I can assure you all that I am most grateful for the help and encouragement I have received. It is much appreciated.

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowydh Da.