SENTINEL: NHS, dog fighting, citizenship, broadband, retail


The Standard’s Sentinel columnist casts an eye on events in and around Boston...

NHS funding and bureaucracy. It’s as baffling as one of those samurai Su Doku puzzles with five interlocked grids, although less easy and time consuming to solve. This week the Standard revealed that the Pilgrim Hospital’s budget for last year was £11.8 million - more than double what it was in 2000 . Yes patient numbers are up but by less than the budget rise - even when taking into account inflation. However we shouldn’t discount the fact that since 2004 the hospital now deals with 25 per cent more patients. Of course some of this will have been caused by the arrivals from Eastern Europe but that’s a separate debate - wherever the people are from the simple fact is there are more of them to be seen. The issue Sentinel can’t quite figure out is that there are now more patients and, seemingly, more money to reflect that - so where has it gone? Surely there aren’t 25 per cent more beds than in 2004? Or indeed more staff? All this amid the backdrop of a trust telling us it will need to make cuts with services potentially centralised. The details are not yet out but, if nothing else, these figures surely show demand is high at our hospital so we need to be expanding it and investing properly in the equipment and resources needed to let the staff do their job.

*Was this ‘just another negative hospital story’? We’re well aware that many readers are tired of the perceived ‘doing down’ of our hospital staff - feeling that it undermines their work and makes patients overly nervous about appointments and treatments. To an extent the paper agrees and ran a front page story with the headline ‘Support our hospital staff’ calling on the authorities to do what they could to help the people who do do a good job at the Pilgrim to get on with their work. That still stands - there are many people who do a great job at the hospital and they don’t deserve to be tarred by the failures of mismanagement. However this does not mean that the paper must turn a blind eye to Pilgrim stories such as this week’s special report on the spiralling cost of running the hospital. And it is not negative for the staff and patients for these things to be highlighted. It’s healthy to see, in black and white, just how many patients the hospital sees and just how much it costs to run. Sometimes there are difficult issues that it would be, frankly, wrong not to tackle. But rest assured all at The Standard appreciate the often unsung work of many people at the hospital. And if you have had great care there write and tell the paper - we’ve carried many such letters in the past and will gladly continue to do so. Oh and we even don’t mind you telling us if you think we’ve got it wrong. It’s a free country and all views are welcome.

*Oh and as an aside, maybe this is the ideal opportunity to stress again that somewhere amid the NHS bureaucracy a decision was made NOT to apply for money to rebuild the maternity unit at the hospital – despite the fact the cash WAS available and it was supported by staff, MP Mark Simmonds AND the health minister Andrew Lansley. With every passing day this looks more and more like a terrible missed opportunity for the town.

*Sentinel is a little baffled by the questions in the British citizenship test printed in this week’s Standard. This columnist managed 4/5 which, presumably, means it’s OK to stay in the country for now?! However a couple of answers were an outright guess and it does beg the question - why does it matter how many teenagers live in the UK and is it really significant to know the year in which married woman were given the right to divorce their husband? And the cost of becoming British? £906. Firstly, who comes up with these bizarre figures? Maybe Sentinel is guilty of just liking a nice clear round number but why £906 and not £900? And is that cost not a little high? Everyone seems to laud the Australians for their immigration stance so what of their citizenship test? $206AUD or about £143. In America? Apparently it is $675 or £401. Given the strange questions and inflated cost this does seem to be a flawed money making exercise. We mustn’t let our cynicism spoil the occasion for those who do take the test but it does seem a baffling set up.

*This week’s paper also contained the worrying spectre of a dog fighting club in Boston. It would be heartbreaking to think that your missing pet pooch has eneded up in the clutches of such a sickening group. One charity has also warned people looking to offload a pet not to take a chance on who you pass it on to - again, it doesn’t bear thinking about that an animal that . Let’s hope someone has at least a modicum of conscience left and lets the police know where and when this is taking place.

*Ah, mr blogger. An entertaining read but the old Eye loves a dig doesn’t he? This week he bizarrely accuses us of not noticing The Body Shop’s closure because it is ‘not within a stone’s throw’ of the offices of this and our rival newspaper. Obviously missed the stories about Clinton Cards, HMV, JJB, the Post Office etc - Sentinel’s stone throwing ability isn’t up to much and certainly couldn’t reach that far. Anyway, in the spirit of cheekiness, here’s an assurance for him and others concerned about retail. The Standard has had a reporter working on a feature on this very subject that will be coming to a newspaper near you very soon. The closure of shops is a serious issue for the town and this blogger agrees with his fellow Friday scribe that the town does need a plan and a vision to help give retail a much needed boost. Soon the paper hopes to bring you the views of traders an academic and the council on this. Oh and speaking of being cheeky, maybe old Eye might like to know it’s ‘Clinton Cards’ and ‘Millets’ not ‘Clintons’ and ‘Millett’s’. No-one’s perfect eh? Maybe he’ll let us off our next error or two for that...

*It’s no surprise to see that one of our streets is among the worst in the country for broadband speeds. Sentinel still thinks that more should have been done to ensure basic standards of internet speed and mobile phone signal were in place for everyone before letting firms expand into ‘superfast’ and ‘4G’. Hats off though to one resident of ‘slow street’ – or Station Road in Swineshead as it is known. When The Standard’s story appeared on Twitter up stepped Sam Deptford, who wrote: “I live on Station Road and I concur with this! It’s that bad I sent this tweet 3 days ago!”. Certainly made Sentinel titter...