Readers reply
We do not need private health insurance, and we must be wary of the Government shifting the balance of health care from the public to the private sector. Increasingly in the United States, individuals are being refused health insurance because of the results of gene tests. There is no public healthcare system for them to fall back on. While the insurance industry in the UK decides whether it wants to use genetic test results, we must bear in mind that an increasingly private system will unjustly make health care inaccessible to those who may need it most

Ben Thomson, Genetics Forum, London EC2

The private health sector should concentrate on: treating those from countries that do not have the level of expertise found in the UK; vanity treatments; fertilisation treatments; any other treatment that is not essential. All other treatment should be the exclusive domain of the National Health Service. Thus implemented, all would have equal access to health care, and wealth would not enable queue-jumping. Money earned from treating foreign nationals should be pumped back into the NHS.

However, the NHS should be self-financing, with national health contributions for the nation spread across the working population.

Some of the monies should be invested in research and marketing of preventive medicine/lifestyles, as a way of reducing the cost of the NHS.

Private health insurance would then be restricted to individuals who have their own companies or who are self-employed, as a means of income during sickness or critical illness.

Tom Knight, Andover

My experience proves that private health insurance can make the difference between life and death, given the present shortages and cuts reported in NHS hospitals generally.

Had my husband not already been in a private bed for other treatment, already authorised by PPP, he would not have been able to call on the services of two consultants late on a Sunday evening. A totally unrelated, life-threatening condition was diagnosed. The operation performed at short notice saved his life. PPP made a substantial ex gratia payment for this operation. Privileged maybe, but worth every penny.

R Biehal, Leeds

Margaret St John's answer to doubts about private health insurance matches my own, except that, at 72, a Tessa has a greater appeal for savings than a PEP. The medical fund thus created is available for private major surgery, such as hip replacement, where the NHS waiting time is unacceptably extended; for minor surgery, such as hernias or carpal tunnel syndrome, the local NHS Trust proves speedy and efficient.

The maddening thing in all this is that if government had the guts to introduce a tax earmarked exclusively for the NHS we'd be spared all the agonising, and settle happily for battleship linoleum instead of wall- to-wall carpeting.

Robert Adams, London N6