Sheep scoop

Somerset, home of the late Harry Patch and one of the greatest-sounding events of All Time

On the day we bid farewell to the veteran Harry Patch, all eyes turn to Somerset. So, I hear you cry, what else happens in that fine county? YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED! There's only the 661-year-old Priddy sheep fair!

This needs no more words.

And yet.

Once you start looking, there are sheep fairs EVERYWHERE. There's Findon and Corby Glen (claiming the crown for oldest sheep fair in Britain - since 1238. 1238! Can we have a moment for 1238! How do you even say that year out loud?) and East Ilsley and Masham. And probably plenty more that have so far escaped the clutches of the internet. For some reason, on this otherwise sombre day, this feels like excellent news.

 

 

 

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.