Hinterland - 24 July 2018

Rural settings in England are unconsciously discriminated against in terms of the deployment of staff by the NHS. The figures are quite shocking as detailed below. Other tasty morsels this week include: Universal Credit, Volunteers, the Tolpuddle Martyrs and wonderful things in the earth – including “gold” under Whitby and foundation revelations wrought by the hot weather. Read on.....

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Number of NHS beds for mental health patients slumps by 30%

This I very worrying but did you know (I suspect not because I have just done the analysis and not reported it yet!) that there are 31% more clinically trained NHS staff per head of population across the whole of England than in its most rural areas? I have the figures broken down for all professions across the NHS on this basis if you want them.  There are over 40% more midwives per head of population across the whole country compared to rural settings. I could go on…..! This story tells us:

The number of hospital beds for people with acute mental health conditions, where a consultant psychiatrist is on hand to oversee treatment, has fallen by almost 30% since 2009 despite repeated claims by ministers that improving care for the mentally ill is now a top priority.

New official figures show that the number of beds for those with some of the most serious conditions – including psychosis, serious depression leading to suicidal feelings and eating disorders – has fallen from 26,448 in 2009 to 18,082 in the first quarter of this year.

Over the same nine years, the data also show significant falls in the number of mental health nurses working in the NHS – from 46,155 to 39,358 – and in the number of doctors in specialist psychiatry training, from 3,187 in 2009 to 2,588 in the first quarter of this year.


Universal credit IT system 'broken', whistleblowers say

I increasingly feel prejudice trumps evidence in the design of public policy. I think Universal Credit is one of the most egregious examples of this. In rural communities often with poor internet access (needed for claimants to participate) and limited employment opportunities, this scheme has the potential to cause very significant social harm as this article illustrates. It tells us:

Growing concern over universal credit, which is six years behind schedule but will eventually handle £63bn of benefits going to 8 million people, is matched by disquiet over what critics say has been a defensive and insular approach to managing welfare reform by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The department came under withering fire last week from a cross-party group of MPs who accused it of a “culture of indifference” after it had repeatedly ignored warnings of basic process errors that led to 70,000 disabled benefit claimants being underpaid an estimated £500m over six years. 

The work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey, sought to limit the damage in a speech on Thursday in which she admitted there were problems with universal credit, and promised to listen to campaigners, claimants and frontline staff to find ways to change and improve the system.

One whistleblower said many of the design problems with universal credit stemmed from the failure to understand claimants’ needs, especially where they lacked digital skills and internet access. “We are punishing claimants for not understanding a system that is not built with them in mind,” he said.


'The NHS would collapse without them': the growing role of volunteers

A very impressive testament to the role of volunteers. I’m doing some workforce research connected to the NHS at the moment and it tells me that in rural settings volunteers are the “glue” which keeps a number of crucial services working. This article, which has a national perspective makes the same point. It tells us:

“The whole thing would collapse without [volunteers]. I saw how much good they could do,” says former barrister Kate Lampard, who in 2015 was asked by the government to report on managing volunteers in hospitals in the wake of the Jimmy Saville scandal.

Volunteers are now often an integral part of patient care, but Lampard points out the wider social benefits too. Some people come into the NHS as volunteers and, after training, go on to take paid jobs in the service. Having suitable volunteers takes some of the pressure off NHS staff. And many people with mental health issues who may not be able to work in a paid capacity find a useful, active role as a volunteer, benefiting themselves, the NHS and wider society.

Citizens Advice estimates that about a fifth of a GP’s time is spent on problems that have non-medical causes, such as personal relationship problems, housing and unemployment concerns or work-related issues. Many of these can be addressed through advice and support provided by volunteers.

But it is vital to ensure that volunteers are properly plugged into the health service. “The circle is completely magic as long as volunteers are properly managed,” says Lampard. She recalls that in one hospital she visited, 400 volunteers were being managed by a single, part-time staff member who had no contact with senior managers – and no effective safeguarding training.


Jeremy Corbyn vows to reverse Tory move that stripped £149m from low-paid agricultural workers

I was stunned in reading this to learn that the scrapping of the Agricultural Wages Board had removed £149 million from the wages of workers. This article tells us:

Jeremy Corbyn will vow to reverse a Conservative move that stripped £149m from the wages of low-paid agricultural workers.

A Labour government will reinstate the Agricultural Wages Board – axed by David Cameron’s government in 2013 – to bring England into line with other parts of the UK.

Speaking at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival in Dorset, the Labour leader will liken the move to their stand against the “exploitation of employers paying poverty wages”.

 “This decision will bring back millions of pounds to workers across the English countryside, in addition to guaranteed paid holiday, sick pay, and rest breaks,” Mr Corbyn will say.

“The best way to honour that noble struggle is not just to remember why it took place, but to secure in our time what those workers fought for: the right to fair pay and decent working conditions.”


Questor: there’s gold underneath North Yorkshire – and Sirius Minerals aims to extract it

The wonderful landscape of Whitby and its hinterland is rich in all sorts of interesting chemicals and ores as this article reveals. Over the next six weeks however most of the gold is likely to be linked to the pockets of tourists all set to buoy up a traditional seasonal seaside resort. The article tells us:

Anyone who has spent a morning fossil hunting on the beach at Robin Hood’s Bay will know that North Yorkshire conceals untold riches. Some are easier to unearth than others.

Four miles inland at Woodsmith Mine, Chris Fraser has expended eight years so far trying to tap an unlikely source of mineral wealth that has been talked about in these parts for decades.

It will be at least another four years before his company, Sirius Minerals, begins to produce polyhalite – an organic fertiliser blend of potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphur – from the site.


Hidden landscapes the heatwave is revealing

I remember in the 1976 heatwave going to Ladybower Dam in Derbyshire to look at the remains of the village which had been flooded when it was created. It was an eerie experience. This heatwave is serving up more information from the past. Have a look at these photos they are fascinating!!!

As the summer sun continues to beat down on the British Isles, ghosts are appearing in the yellowing fields.

Normally kept hidden by lush grasses and crops, old and prehistoric features are making themselves known through imprints on fields and lawns, some for the first time in known memory.

It's hard to see these features from the ground - but with the rise of drones for aerial photography, they can be captured where they may have remained unidentified in previous heatwaves.

The marks are revealed when grass or crops on top of wood or stone still in the ground flourish or deteriorate at different rates to surrounding material in the unusually hot weather.


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


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