First published in the February 2017 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here http://www.southleedslife.com/newspaper/
The problems facing the health service are being keenly felt in Leeds. We recently read about operations, including cancer operations, being cancelled in the city, and the pressures on the LGI and St James's accident and emergency departments - staff and patients - as well as on GPs are enormous. Saying that there have only been a ‘small number of incidents’ nationally or trying to blame staff and councils is wrong and ignores the truth about what is happening. I am also very concerned about the Sustainability and Transformation Plans which will involve further cuts that we simply can’t afford, locally or nationally.
The blunt truth is that our NHS needs more resources and more staff, and the Government cannot go on cutting funding for social care and closing care homes (Leeds has lost 316 care home beds) when we have a rising elderly population. One of the consequences of this is that elderly people end up in A&E when they have a fall or are ill, but then have to stay in hospital beds when there is no longer any medical need for them to be there because there is nowhere to discharge them to with the right kind of care and support.
It is obvious that we are not going to be able to relieve the pressure on our hospitals until we tackle this issue of social care. It's the greatest social challenge we face as a society and it needs politicians from all parties to come together to find the answer.
The Leeds United Supporters’ Trust is campaigning for a pilot scheme to show whether safe standing at Elland Road can be made to work. One of the consequences of the terrible Hillsborough tragedy was the recommendation that football stadiums should become all-seating for safety reasons. My view is that safety must be the principal consideration, but in recent years trials have taken place elsewhere with safe standing areas comprising flip-up seats with a barrier along the front of the row so that if fans choose to stand there is no risk of them falling forwards onto supporters in front of them. I’ve told the Trust that I will support a pilot study to see if this can work safely in practice.
Finally, many congratulations to the Holbeck Neighbourhood Forum for producing their draft Neighbourhood Plan. It's been put together following a lot of hard work by members of the Forum, led by its Chair Dennis Kitchen, and a number of local consultation events. As the Forum's website says "Holbeck has gone through many changes in its history. From its origins as a small village built around the ancient Holbeck Moor, it grew massively to become a booming industrial area. However, in the 20th Century industry went into sharp decline and ever since, Holbeck has struggled with a legacy of complex environmental, social and economic problems. Since 2012 local residents have been working hard on the Holbeck Neighbourhood Plan, which aims to tackle these issues...."
The draft plan sets out a vision for the area with the aim of creating a thriving local centre, improving community facilities, providing housing and jobs, and enhancing local green space while respecting the essential heritage and character of Holbeck. The plan, which shows just what can be achieved locally if we put our minds to it, will now go to be examined before being put to a local referendum later in the year.