Reasons for optimism in healthcare service

President Paul Crook next to Mayor Andrew Tebbutt.
President Paul Crook next to Mayor Andrew Tebbutt.

Morpeth Rotary Club

Around 80 members and guests gathered at Morpeth Golf Club for the annual President’s Dinner.

At the top table with President Paul Crook and his wife Helen were District Governor Peter Chandler and his wife Christine, Mayor of Morpeth Andrew Tebbutt and his wife Joan, Assistant District Governor Stewart Blair, and the speaker, Stewart’s son, Dr Alistair Blair.

Other guests included presidents from neighbouring clubs, with Cynthia Fairley from Killingworth with Longbenton and her husband Tony, Suzanne Marshall from Ponteland and husband David, Michael Metcalf President of Wansbeck and his Treasurer Clive Johnson, and six members of Morpeth Lions.

After an excellent meal provided by the new golf club caterers from The Parlour at Blagdon, a toast was proposed to Morpeth Rotary by Peter Chandler.

He said he had delivered several jars of purple damson jam to the club. They were to be purchased by members to raise money for the Rotary International campaign to rid the world of polio. Those immunised have purple dye put on a finger so it is easy to tell who has been treated.

He had visited the club and knew it to be large and vibrant, with a diverse membership. He thanked the club for a contribution of £250 for his project to support and train young carers in the region.

He noted that the Rotary movement had been going for 112 years and that next year Morpeth Rotary will be celebrating its 80th year.

President Paul welcomed guests, saying that some were from faraway places like Dorset, Canada and Newbiggin. He knew that many others lived in Morpeth and were delighted to do so, even though some of the powers-that-be were planning to move resources from Morpeth to other parts of the county. He raised a toast to Morpeth.

A raffle, organised by Simon Foley, raised £500 for charitable giving.

Mayor Andrew Tebbutt said he was aware that a number of people present had taken part in a protest march earlier that day from the town centre to County Hall. It was to challenge a decision they thought to be unjust and against the interests of the county, as well as the town.

He was proud to be Mayor and be part of a town council that cared about the environment and the heritage of this historic market town. It was adding value to all parts of the town and working with charities to look after others, especially the most vulnerable.

Morpeth was one of the first towns in the country to have developed a Neighbourhood Plan.

In collaboration with the county council they will be employing two people, including a new apprentice. Along with the Chamber of Trade, Sanderson Arcade and other bodies, they are supporting the long term growth of the local economy. With 3,000 new houses planned up to 2031 it is important that the vision is followed so that new people can be welcomed and integrated into a place that is still a pleasure to live in.

Mayoress Joan Tebbutt and past Rotary President Rhona Dunn, who is also Chairman of Contact Mental Health Group, are to raise money for that charity by taking a zip wire challenge across the Tyne.

Andrew Hamnett gave a well-informed, witty and humorous address to introduce the honoured guests. He followed this with a toast to the guests.

Dr Alistair Blair is Chief Clinical Officer of the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group. He is a partner in Wellway GP Practice in Morpeth, and has worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres in the war zones of Sri Lanka and the Kenya and Somalia border.

Thirty years ago he had been on a Rotary Youth Leadership Award Scheme, which he found a valuable, formative experience.

He asked three questions to test our thoughts on the future. Did we think that things were changing for the better? What percentage of the world’s population had been immunised against measles — two, five or eight in every ten? In 1948 there were a billion children, in 2000 there were two billion. How many will there be by the end of this century — four, three or two billion? How has the level of poverty changed over the last 20 years — double, the same or half?

In each case it was the third answer that was correct and the situation is much more optimistic than we thought. There was much in health service advances to be happy about.

He saw Rotary as a rock of friendliness, peacefulness and usefulness at a time when tempests can seem to rage.

People think the NHS is the worst it has ever been, but only two years ago it was judged to be the best of the ten leading health services in the world. Hip replacements used to have a two-year wait, now it is 18 weeks.

We don’t spend a lot on the NHS, paying less in proportion than Spain or Greece. We can have anything, but we can’t have everything. This year the NHS has £1,300 funding for each person. Some won’t use any of it, others may use 100 times more. The over 75s spend about a third of the budget. The most ill five per cent spend 40 per cent.

The plan is for the NHS and care services to be like an airport. About 20 different companies look after you and get you on board, but it feels seamless. We can learn much from Rotary on how best to work together to achieve this.

The final toast of Rotary The World Over was given by Paul Crook.