Spend NHS cash wisely

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MUCH of the blame for the increased pressure on A&E departments has been put down to GPs no longer doing night calls, so let us look how this situation came about.

During its second term in office, the Labour Government rashly promised to increase the number of GPs by several thousand.

To achieve this, some bright spark came up with the idea that the main obstacle to recruiting more GPs was the contractual obligation that they provide round-the-clock care for their patients.

To overcome this, the Government told the British Medical Association that provided its members took a cut in salary, they could opt out. Later, while discussing the new contract during a BBC interview, Dr Simon Fradd of the BMA said he was stunned when the details were first outlined.

Although the out of hours service was not popular among GPs, never in their wildest dreams did they think it would ever be up for negotiation, let alone stoppable, and yet here it was being handed to them on a plate and all for a modest pay cut of £6,000. (Another reason why the BMA feared raising the matter of opting out was because the doctors were worried that their pay could be cut by up to 50%).

As though to sugar a pill which was already very sweet, the Government then stated GPs could earn bonuses for meeting performance targets for anything from distributing anti-smoking leaflets and diagnosing illnesses such as depression.

No limit was placed on the amount GPs could earn under the new contract and this turned out to be a very expensive blunder. Expectations of what the GPs would earn from a bonus based target scheme were 30% less than reality. This left the NHS with a financial black hole of £300m in the first year alone.

Once the decision was made and out of hours care went to private tender, many GPs set up companies offering the same services, only now at a profit to themselves. It has been said today, the sky is the limit for an ambitious GP. Another beneficiary of the opt out is the man who struck the deal, former Labour Health minister Alan Milburn. While an MP, he also worked for a company which now owns Harmoni, the biggest provider of out of hours care in this country!

While I will be the first to agree new medicines, procedures and treatments mean the NHS can never have enough money, I am sure much of it can be spent more wisely.

D Walker

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Government funding cuts have meant that two leading tourist attractions may have to start charging visitors.

However, these cutbacks to the likes of The National Railway Museum in York, and the National Media Museum in Bradford may only be the start of a long downward spiral for our nation’s museums, and it could only be a matter of time before others are forced to follow suit.

As a giddy young child, looking around the huge locomotives in York was my idea of a perfect day out.

In some ways, it still is; that place is pretty amazing, and I can spend hours photographing them, and reading about their histories. We used to visit occasionally for the day, just to get us all out of the house and experience something different.

I learnt a lot there, right from the history of the famous “Mallard”, through to the construction of the channel tunnel, connecting the UK to France.

But here, of course, lies the problem.

Putting a monetary price on knowledge is a dangerous tactic, and issues of “value for money” will inevitably come to the forefront if these plans go ahead.

The museum may be expected to improve their experience, but recent news reports are suggesting that museums may “face a cut in the number of displays”. The Government cannot expect museums to cut back on the quality of their experience, and then charge guests an entrance fee. That’s absurd.

If we want to live in a society where people are culturally informed about history and the arts, then this will, I feel, do nothing to aid the matter. Whether it will displace visitors to an alternative attraction, or deter them completely, is a difficult prediction to make. We need to encourage people to visit our museums. Perhaps this is a plea more than anything: please take advantage of your local museums.

They have been carefully preserved for our viewing pleasure, with the ultimate aim of educating the next generation with local, national, and international knowledge. Show your support.

Matthew Gillings

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