While you are there, take a look at the other work on show (much of it available to buy if you wish). It’s all by local artists and very, very good. The other first prize entry by Jo Mortimer is on display at the Driftwood Gallery, another one well worth a visit. Incidentally, Jo Mortimer has kindly given a limited edition print of a work similar to the winning work. This will be auctioned at, I believe, the ball at the end of the celebration week.
Unfortunately, on Sunday my mobility scooter decided to be temperamental, which meant I missed the group photo. Never mind, I believe quite a crowd turned up.
I was a bit too flabbergasted to ask him how he coped with the watery bits of the world! No doubt the book will tell me.
Whilst thinking about this, you might consider popping into The Olive Room for a meal. Mr Thomas Carr is cooking exceptionally well at the moment and has an interesting menu, even if it is a bit heavily laden with fish (which I am not too keen on). Don’t worry, carnivores are well catered for, also. Meanwhile, the other Mr Carr will serve you at a sedate pace, with hardly any running! When you go, please do not order a bottle of wine, no. 28. It is an absolutely delicious German Pinot Noir – several words you rarely see in the same sentence. So why not order it? Two reasons: first, if you do, it will spoil you for other bottles of pinot noir costing several times more; second, you might not leave any for me!
One thing about the Olive Room – quite often, after eating the starter and main course, which tend to be pretty substantial, I have no room for a dessert. This was particularly disappointing this time, as there was a passion fruit parfait on the menu which looked right up my street. Perhaps I should avoid ordering a side of John’s chips with the main, but they are so good.
According to the OECD, the UK’s share of GDP (gross domestic product) devoted to health lags way behind our neighbours. The latest statistics reported that the UK spent 8.5%, Netherlands 11%, France and Germany both 10.8% and Belgium 10.2%. In money terms, UK spent €2470 per person, Netherlands €3828, France €3220, Germany €3613, Belgium €3318.
With an increasingly aging population and a determination to keep people alive, even those who would prefer they weren’t, it is inevitable that health care costs are going to increase year by year. When you add to that the research going on which produces results undreamed of only decades ago, all of which adds to the cost of treatment and the number of people available to be treated, is it any wonder that our local health service has gone from being in surplus a few years ago to deficit now? Just one thing on that deficit, though. The Northern Devon NHS Healthcare Trust bandies around the figure of over £400million. That is not what we owe now; it is what they project we will owe in 2020 if we go on as we are now.
If we increased our spend to match that of, say, Belgium, think how much better the health service could be. Of course, to do this, the money has to come from somewhere, but I know I am not the only person who would be prepared to see higher taxes if I knew the money were to be spent on better health care.
Even without spending more, I am sure we could do more with the money we have. For example, someone should look into how we can get out of the incredibly expensive PFI (Private Finance Initiative) commitments. This was Gordon Brown’s brilliant idea to avoid making the figures for government borrowing look to bad during his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer. It involved getting private financiers to build hospitals, which the health service then leases back from them. It achieved its aim of making the government’s finances look good, but at the expense of future generations. Unlike borrowing, where eventually the borrowed money is paid back, with PFI, it is never paid back and the hospitals will never belong to us. We will go on paying for them indefinitely.
Then there are agency staff. Agency staff are great for covering short term emergencies, but it is fatal to rely on them, as does the NHS, for day to day operations. Even short term emergencies can often be dealt with from internal resources provided the operation is run efficiently. The NHS should make it a priority to reduce immediately its reliance on agency staff. In doing so, it may well find it is able to pay its remaining permanent staff rather better.
Finally, management. I am sure that there are too many administrators in the NHS. There is nothing sinister about this. Managers tend to see the solution to problems from a managerial point of view and often think the solution is mora mangers. More managers require more support staff and these managers then solve their problems by engaging yet more managers and so it goes on.
Another report in the Western Morning News. “Bed blocking crisis getting worse – union”. As I am sure you all know, bed blocking is when a patient is ready to be discharged but cannot be because there is no provision for he or she to be given the required care at home. Apparently, in the South West last year, patients who were ready to be discharged were kept in hospital for an unnecessary 257,900 days extra because alternative care facilities were not available, an increase of 83,433 days, compared to 174,467 days in the year 2011/12. Bed blocking costs the NHS more than £800million per year.
It gives me no pleasure at all to say that this is exactly what I said would happen when Northern Devon NHS Healthcare Trust closed in-patient beds in the Tyrrell and other community hospitals.
One of my brothers has lived in Spain for many years, and I asked him how the Spanish health service compared with ours. Here is his reply:
I have an app for my phone on which I can make an appointment with my GP any time up to the evening before for a 9.00 'ish appointment the following day.”