Not much fun if you are one of those 900!
In fact, if you read the article, the committee is not blaming the hospitals themselves. Rather they suggest that the Department of Health and NHS England are to blame. To my way of thinking, the blame goes further – the whole system of care, from birth until death, needs joined up thinking. Most of the bed-blocking is, I am sure, down to the elderly, who cannot be moved from their hospital bed until a system is in place to ensure that they are cared for at home. Care at home is the responsibility of Social Services, and too often, it seems, the hospital and Social Services cannot get their respective acts together. As far as the patient is concerned, they are not going to worry if it is a hospital, Social Services, a district nurse, or Jeremy Hunt in a gold-plated Rolls-Royce; all they will want is to be sure they are getting care appropriate to their needs.
Peter Heaton-Jones, our MP, has taken on board the need to make sure our care homes treat their residents with dignity. Perhaps he should extend his campaign to include all aspects of care for all patients, not just the elderly and not just in care homes.
It wasn’t that the people of that time were any more callous than we are now. In part, I think that we were, as a nation, a lot poorer and so didn’t have the money for luxuries like drop kerbs. Also, there was probably something of a vicious circle – the disabled didn’t get out because the facilities weren’t there; the facilities weren’t there because the disabled didn’t much impinge on the public consciousness; the disabled didn’t much impinge on the public consciousness because they weren’t much seen; and they weren’t much seen because they didn’t get out.
I think that Mr Greenslade’s idea is probably a non-starter. Even if the track were doubled, so as to relieve the capacity limit that there is presently, the plethora of tiny and barely used stations along the route would surely slow the whole thing down. In addition, look at a map. Why go an hour south to Exeter when what you really want is to go east?
My friend, Tony Olsson has a much more ambitious idea. Here it is in his own (slightly edited) words:
“In a dead straight line, London is 175 miles away. Without any intermediate stops, a High Speed Train or IC125 would take 1½ hours; a very fast modern train might do it in an hour. But we don’t have a direct line to London. We used to before Beeching closed it. It wasn’t dead straight, it was a bit wiggly and went from Barnstaple to Taunton via South Molton, but it was a direct link to London. There was no need to waste an hour going south to Exeter, then another twenty minutes waiting for a connecting service, then another half hour travelling north to Taunton where, at last, you actually start going where you want to go!
“If you want to commute to London, there are only two sensible choices: 1) move to within commuting distance, 2) campaign to reopen a line from Barnstaple to Taunton. Obviously it will take more than the hypothetical 1½ hours mentioned above, but much less than the four hours taken at present.
I confess I would love to see this, and it would cost a fraction of the £42billion (or is it more now?) that HS2 is projected to cost. Is it not ludicrous that North Devon has no rail connections to the rest of the country other than the beautiful and scenic Tarka Line which, lovely though it is, is a constant source of frustration to those who have to use it regularly. Tony talks about his plan as being for commuting, but a reasonably fast direct line to London and thus the rest of the UK would have the same regenerative effect on North Devon that the coming of the railway to Ilfracombe had back in Victorian times. It would bring more tourists and more non-tourist-related jobs to the area and would mean millions of pounds to the local economy.