What should we do about the NHS?

There’s no doubt that the NHS is in trouble but sorting it out is no just a matter of throwing more money at it because one of its problems is a lack of people and there just aren’t enough out there to fill the gaps. It’s broader than this but some components of the solution seem pretty obvious.

I speak with a little relevant knowledge. I was chair of the Health Committee at Cambridgeshire County Council between 2015 and 2017 and enjoyed working relationships at that time with the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), Cambridgeshire’s excellent hospitals and Public Health England (the photo above is of me with its chief executive Duncan Selbie). Even then it was obvious what could be done for starters to improve matters.

Sort out social care: we all know this but do nothing about it. Until this sector can perform as it needs to there’s going to continue to be the blockages in the NHS because of ‘delayed discharges of care’. Maybe we should abandon this euphemism and talk bout ‘bed blocking’ because that’s what it is. It’s akin to running a factory without being able to use the warehouse for finished goods.

Reduce demand: if fewer people were getting sick then there would be less demand on the NHS so that it would be able to operate more effectively. Keeping people healthy is one of the roles of Public Health but that’s seriously underfunded and in 2017 the government of the day in its wisdom cut its grant mid year. According to the Health Foundation since 2015/16 the public health grant has been cut by 24% on a real-terms per person basis (click here)

In 2016 I presented a motion at the Local Government Association conference in Bournemouth. This called upon Councils to regard pubic health projects as investments and upon the Government to making funding available. The motion was unanimously supported but to my knowledge nothing ever happened.

Improve understanding: I remember the CCG especially grumbling about the attitude of people to the NHS. It seemed that there was a sense of having a right to access regardless of the severity of the problem. What was needed was more of a sense of ownership of a valuable but limited asset which should only be used when it really was needed. There are campaigns to get people to ring 111 first or to go to the pharmacist for advice but they do seem to miss the point which is that it’s ‘our’ NHS not ‘the’ NHS and it’s up to all of us to take care of it.

It strikes me that if you can sort the above out then the size of the NHS problem might be severely diminished.

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It’s been a busy year on TripAdvisor

I don’t really know why I bother but I’m pretty diligent in reporting restaurants I’ve visited and hotels I’ve stayed at on TripAdvisor. In 2022 I rated 9 hotels and 36 restaurants. For some reason I did not rate our replacement hotel, The Gran Hotel le Pace in Sant’Angelo, which wasn’t really that bad but it’s picked up a few harsh reviews of late. It was a replacement hotel used by Voyage Jules Verne during our recent holiday in Sorrento. I also did not review the Castle in Spofforth. I engaged with both VJV and the Castle after these experiences and credit to both operations that they responded positively to my complaints.

Amongst the hotels three stood out. The Trewythen in Llanidloes and the Maesmawr in Caersws (photo) are both small but expertly managed operations. I’d recommend them. The Crown in Harrogate is bigger and I’ve stayed before but it ticked all the boxes you’d expect of a well run large hotel including a very responsive breakfast operation.

The Caerwylan in Criccieth is almost as good and shows how a traditional family seaside hotel can move with the times without losing its essential character

I make no apologies for naming and shaming the Albion Hotel in Brighton. It’s run by Britannia Hotels which consistently rates bottom of the pile in Which surveys. For me it’s just cynical exploitation of what should be valuable assets simply to maximise returns to shareholders.

The Celtic Royal in Caernarfon is not that bad but still show how running hotels to minimise costs to attract group bookings results in a poor experience for guests.

I enjoyed meals at a remarkable 5 star rated restaurants starting with la Vita in Chur, Switzerland, Ramon in Sanpedor, Spain and the Vesuvio (photo), l’Abate and le Grazie in/near Sorrento. Closer to home I enjoyed the Drum & Money in Harrogate, la Pergola just outside Cambridge, Haughmond near Shrewsbury, Number 10 in Lavenham, the Coal Shed in Brighton, Fancett’s in Cambridge and Squires at the Bedford Lodge in Newmarket. Several establishments scored 4 and I have my fingers crossed that a visit to Market House in Cambridge will see it bumped up to a 5.

All in all a pretty good year. With a little good fortune 2023 will be even better.

Photo of the Month: December 2022

It was a bitterly cold morning and I was walking into Histon to support the Abbey Fields stall at the SmokeHouse market. I took the opportunity to photograph the knitted embellishment to the wall at the start of Pease Way.

It was another phone shot, taken with my Samsung 20E, 1/105th at f2.4 and ISO25. There’s been limited post processing but I’ve given it a square crop because it works and for Instagram.

5 highlights of 2022

It’s been a more normal year and to some extent it’s been business as usual with fewer standout highlights. Here’s a list of five that spring to mind.

Family holiday in North Norfolk. We rented a cottage in Thornham and the Bradburies and Jenkinses including Charles coexisted for a week. We enjoyed some good, and less good, food together, we saw stuff we hadn’t seen before and Charles and I took lots of photographs. All in all a good event.

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1966 and all that

In 1966 England won the World Cup. It was also a pretty significant year for me. It was the year I started at university and was therefore the time when I stopped living at home. Although I visited many times thereafter I never lived there again. It was the year when I worked full time, actually starting in late 1965, and thus became the year in which I could afford to buy my own car. And it was the year when I headed off with three school friends for a camping holiday in the south of France.

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Photo of the Month: November 2022

It’s back to wild life this month! I spent an excellent weekend in mid Wales on a photography course and for the Sunday afternoon we visited the Red Kite Centre at Rhayader.

This photo was taken with my Sony a7 111 DSLR 1/2000th at f5.6 and ISO 2000 with 200mm on the zoom. I reckon it’s rather good! I used continuous autofocus and typically three or four shots in a single burst. Earlier shots were taken at 1/1000th and were a little blurred.

Others on the course were equipped with 600mm lenses and more and my guess is that they would not have been able to take a photograph before the bird had left the frame.

Photo of the Month: October 2022

Continuing my theme of photographs which are out of my comfort zone, this one was taken when I participated in a one hour street photography workshop as a part of the Cambridge Photography Show. Lots of good common sense and rule number 1 seems to be: don’t use a DSLR!

Anyway this was taken with my Sony a7 111 DSLR (!) 1/125th at f9.0 and ISO 3200 with 112mm on the zoom. The ISO’s a bit high but f9.0 gave me enough depth of field to ensure that the subject was completely in focus. To be fair this wasn’t real street photography because the subject here was a friend of the tutor so it was more street portraiture.  In post processing I’ve increased the blacks and white and toned down the highlights. That’s made a world of difference to the subjects skin!