Hinterland - 10 December 2018

In Hinterland this week - Lots of stuff about costs affecting: upland economies, the NHS, libraries, adult social care and cold rural homes, supplemented by Rochdale with “bells on it”!!  Read on.....

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Ministers and NHS England chief at loggerheads over targets

Interesting article this. It raises in my mind the fact that systems reform, not more cash is likely to be the most potent solution to tackling rural health inequalities. It tells us:

The head of the NHS and the government are at loggerheads over how much the health service can be improved for the £20.5bn extra Theresa May has pledged to give it, the Guardian can reveal.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has been having major disagreements behind the scenes in recent weeks with Downing Street, the Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care about how much the forthcoming NHS long-term plan can promise to boost care.

 “Tension” and “difficulties” have emerged during detailed horsetrading between the two sides amid sharp differences of opinion over the extent of the document’s ambitions, well-placed NHS and Whitehall sources have told the Guardian.

Negotiations have left ministers “fed up” and “deeply irritated” that Stevens is refusing to include explicit guarantees they believe will reassure voters that the service will improve dramatically over the next five years thanks to the extra money.

The plan, which will set out how the extra money will be spent, had been due to come out earlier this week but was delayed and is likely to finally appear in the week after next, subject to events at Westminster and further discussions between Stevens and ministers about its contents.


Tackling fuel poverty would cut winter deaths and costs to the NHS

This is a very thought provoking article, bearing in mind the considerably poorer fuel efficiency of the rural housing stock. It tells us:

The appalling statistics on excess winter deaths in England and Wales (Last winter’s NHS crisis worst since 1976, with 50,000 excess winter deaths – ONS, 1 December) demonstrate the extreme hardship so many people face living in our dreadful, leaky homes during cold weather. For every death, probably five people had emergency admissions to hospital and 27 had additional visits to their GPs. The cost to the health service is enormous. If you could afford to keep warm, the effect of influenza would not be so serious.

There have been three recent reports from the government or its advisers setting targets to deal with the problem of the poorest people living in the least energy-efficient housing. But the rhetoric on fuel poverty is not matched by adequate policies. Worse still, no government money is going into making these leaky homes more energy efficient – that task is left to the utilities.


Nearly 130 public libraries closed across Britain in the last year

This represents almost three libraries per week…. The story tells us:

Almost 130 public libraries have closed in the last year in Britain while an extra 3,000 volunteers have been brought in to run remaining services, as the decade’s austerity pressures see local authorities continuing to apply swingeing cuts to budgets.

The annual survey of British libraries by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) has revealed a similar picture each year since 2010, with the number of branches and paid staff falling every year.

Over the last year, spending on libraries by local authorities fell by £30m to £741m. There was a net loss of 127 public libraries in England, Wales and Scotland, while 712 full-time employees lost or left their jobs and volunteer numbers increased by 3,000, to 51,394.

“Community-run” library branches have become the norm in the UK as councils ask volunteers to take the service off their books. In 2010, estimates from Public Libraries News suggest there were only around 10 libraries in the hands of volunteers; by 2017, the figure had risen to around 500. Cipfa calculations show that 10,000 new volunteers have joined Britain’s library service over the last three years, increasing from 41,402 in 2014-15 to 51,394 in 2017-18.


Guns - and pubs - silenced as grouse shortage costs rural areas millions

This sounds like very bad news for the uplands. The story tells us:

On a chilly autumn evening the pubs on the edges of the moors come alive with the sounds of celebration after a good day's shooting.

But this year those same pubs lay empty, as a shortage of grouse saw 70 per cent of the shoot days in the North of England cancelled.

With the season coming to a close on Monday, it can be revealed that the shortage has cost rural areas millions in lost income.

The vibrant shooting community, which moves into remote moorland areas just as the tourists begin to move out, has in some places disappeared entirely.


Ministers urged not to set care cost cap that 'may be too high to help'

This debate is all well and good but if something isn’t done to stop local authorities having to continue to support the cost of it- most first tier authorities will be bankrupt within the next decade methinks. This story tells us:

Ministers have been urged not to set a cap on care costs, which is so high that it fails to help almost all of those in need.

Theresa May is expected to publish a green paper on social care before Christmas, which will set out options about how to fund care of the elderly.

The vexed issue nearly cost the Conservatives the last election, when their proposals were branded a “dementia tax”. 

Under those plans, pensioners’ assets - down to the last £100,000 - would be used to fund care whether or not they were still living in their homes.

Amid a growing backlash, Mrs May last year said the deal would include a cap on costs, with no one having to pay more than £72,000. 

However, the plan was shelved, amid promises to publish a green paper - which has been repeatedly delayed - to explore the options.

Charities for the elderly raised fears that future proposals could be even worse than those which were abandoned - and could help as few as one in 20 of those in need of care.

Calculations for the Alzheimer’s Society suggest that capping total costs at £72,000 would only affect seven per cent of those who receive care.

And a higher threshold of £80,000 would mean just five per cent of pensioners receiving care would receive help, while just two per cent would get help if it rose as high as £100,000, the estimates by analysts LaingBuisson show.

The average resident of a care home spends two and a half years there, with annual costs of between £30,000 and £40,000.


And Finally……

Something to look forward to on Christmas Eve alongside Carols from Kings…This story tells us:

The traditional bongs from Big Ben are familiar to BBC Radio 4 listeners. However on Christmas Eve they might sound a little different after the BBC said it will broadcast the chimes from Rochdale Town Hall instead.

Big Ben, the great bell in Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower, has been silenced - apart from national occasions - for over a year due to a multimillion pound four-year renovation project.

This ‘silence of the bongs’ – much criticised when the scaffolding was first erected - has meant that the BBC has had to broadcast a recording of Big Ben’s chimes before its main news programmes on Radio 4 at 6pm and at midnight.

Earlier this year Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse minister, came up with his own solution and urged the BBC to broadcast the chimes from the clock above Rochdale Town Hall, which has the same “Westminster chimes” as Big Ben.

Now Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the BBC's director general, has replied - and agreed to broadcast the bongs from Rochdale Town Hall before the news at 6pm on Christmas Eve.

In a letter to Mr Berry sent this week and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, Lord Hall said he "really liked" the idea, adding: "I'm delighted to tell you that Radio 4 will shortly be making a special recording of the Rochdale bells - and that they will feature at a very prominent moment in our schedule, just before the 1800 News on 24 December


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.



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