SIR ALAN BEITH MP: A boost for our hospitals

Alnwick Infirmary sign.
Alnwick Infirmary sign.

It was good to hear the new Chief Executive of the NHS saying that more treatment and care should be offered through our community hospitals.

A lot of medical treatment has been centralised on grounds of clinical safety and the benefits of having medical teams with high levels of experience.

But in our area, distant hospitals mean long journeys for patients and their families.

The answer is to make much more use of community hospitals like Alnwick, Berwick and Rothbury for treatments and care which can safely be provided locally.

NHS leaders should be asking the question of all treatments, especially those for older people: can this be done in the local hospital and, if it can, why is it not being done there?

I put this to Liberal Democrat Health and Care Minister Norman Lamb, knowing that he is very much in sympathy – his own North Norfolk constituency is very rural, like mine.

Progress will not just happen because of one statement by the NHS top manager – we will need to keep up the pressure to make the best use of our highly valued local hospitals.


Tony Blair is back in the news, claiming that he did right by invading Iraq, for which he had the backing at the time of most Labour and Conservative MPs.

Not even the collapse of that country into civil war and the failure of the American-backed Iraqi government has taught him that his hopes of creating a New Democratic Order in the Middle East were hopelessly unrealistic.

If Tony Blair had still been Prime Minister I am sure he would have been pressing for a new and costly Anglo-American military intervention in both Iraq and Syria.

Both conflicts are attracting radicalised young men from Britain, and the Government’s top security concern is that some of them will come back to this country as trained terrorists determined to cause mayhem on our streets.

Sending British troops to Iraq, with great sacrifice and loss, did nothing to prevent these conflicts and actually made the civil war in Iraq more likely.

Now we and the Americans are having to cultivate better relations with Iran, whose leaders used to think we were Satan’s helpers.

The old saying that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ has come back into the policy of the West and, even if it is justified, it holds many dangers.


Last week, I had a meeting with the Ofsted inspector who was in charge of the recent inspection of schools in Northumberland, including the Alnwick federation of schools, and of the county council’s education department.

It has been a tough time for teachers, heads and school governors.

They are under a lot of pressure, and I was glad to be assured that Ofsted is not walking away nor planning to repeat the inspection process soon, but is keeping in contact with the schools, particularly to monitor improvements in those schools which did not get a good rating.

Ofsted will also continue to take an interest in what is happening at the county council, which was criticised in its earlier report.

Several senior staff have left and new appointments are being made.

I am particularly concerned that the political leadership under Labour is slashing support for school and college transport for 16 to 19-year-olds.

This will impose a huge burden on local families.

Next year, Northumberland schools will get a significantly better financial settlement from central government, as a first result of our long campaign to end the massive unfairness which gives much more money for schools in some areas than others.

Also, thanks to Coalition ministers and another long campaign, Alnwick will get the new high school which it has needed for so long.

However, we are having to battle to get funding to equip and furnish it.


I was at a meeting with former civil servants, academics and others about planning for whatever government is formed after the next election.

One contributor – not a civil servant or a politician – made an interesting point. Politicians, he said, are attacked for not doing what they say they’re going to do.

The real problem, he said, is the opposite.

Politicians persist in trying to do the impossible or impractical things they said they would do before they understood the subject properly.

It is a point worth remembering as election promises start coming thick and fast.