The Independent London Newspaper
18th November 2017

NEW JOURNAL COMMENT: Declaring the sick fit to work is no way to balance the books

    Lawrence Bond

    Lawrence Bond

    Published: 19 January, 2017

    ONCE again, we have to record the death of a man shortly after he had been declared “fit to work” at a Jobcentre.

    Though his sister does not blame the staff we hope, on the assumption they are members of a union, that they will bring this shameful episode before their relevant committee.

    The fact is that Mrs May’s cabinet is continuing to pander to the tabloids in their relentless, and rather pointless, pursuit of a tiny minority of claimants who fraudulently try and cheat the system.

    In terms of the economy’s overheads the sum is relatively small.

    Far greater are the billions of “frauds” committed by large companies who dodge their tax liabilities.

    To balance the books we should look at one costly item– defence expenditure.

    Sadly, all political parties fight shy of defence. Are we trying too hard to be the big power of our Empire days? Are we spending too much?

    In the meantime some politicians bully the unemployed.

    There are far too many instances where claimants, medically in poor shape and unfit for work, are “sanctioned” after superficial examinations.

    In Mr Bond’s case we trust that his political representa­tives – councillors and MP – will pursue the matter.

    Unless the systems used by Jobcentres are changed tragic death like this will be repeated.

    NHS pressure

    IS a paradox emerging in the north London health service? 

    Royal Free chief executive David Sloman must be spitting bile about the loss of funding to his hospital.

    The financial crisis at the Hampstead NHS trust has been caused, in part, by the latest top-down reorganisation of the NHS – the Sustainability and Transformation Programme (STP). 

    However, Sir David – he was recently knighted for services to the NHS – is also in charge of the STP in north London.

    The STP – essentially an agreement on how reduced NHS funding should be spent over the next five years – is expected to have severe consequences for patient care. 

    There will be collateral damage for patients as trusts come under more pressure to reduce costs on non-emergency operations. Waiting times are likely to increase when more expensive-to-maintain hospital beds are axed, as expected. 

    Yet the UK has one of the lowest ratios of hospital beds to patients in the western world. The NHS is reeling under contradictory pressures. It needs a holistic overhaul.