IoS letters, emails & online postings (20 February 2011)

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My father spent most of the last two weeks of his life in a filthy geriatric ward, lying in a urine-soaked bed, unable to reach his buzzer or a drink, while a crowd of nurses stood chatting about their social lives round a nurses' station.

More than 14 years later, nothing seems to have changed. Have nurses become more callous and cruel? Is the system wrong? Is it a combination of factors?

Wards should be designed so that a nurse is sitting in the middle of the ward in full view of all beds (as used to be the case). Where there is gross neglect or ill-treatment, we do not want financial compensation, but a sincere apology and the knowledge that someone is being held accountable and that it will not happen again.

No amount of technical expertise is any use if the patient is frightened, hungry, thirsty or in avoidable pain and discomfort. Trainees should be told to imagine it is a loved one of theirs that they are looking after, and to be reminded that we all grow old – even them.

We need to get away from the target-driven box-ticking culture that infects all organisations. Care can't easily be measured. This crisis is in part caused by treating everything as a business. Care can never be just a business. This problem does not just apply to the NHS. It happens in the private sector, too, and last week's Ombudsman's report should not be used as a stick with which to beat the NHS by those who wish to undermine it and introduce more privatisation.

Jill Rooney

Ashtead, Surrey

David Cameron's Big Society relies on local people creating communities of mutual care, but he denies them the core money to enable them to do this ("Battle of the Big Society", 13 February). He seeks to integrate different religions and cultures into one society, but by promoting faith schools he undermines this. He seeks to encourage individuals to contribute to the common good, but he fails to curb those whose greed and selfishness have helped to cause this situation. He seeks to give local people more power, but makes drastic cuts to councils and robs them of control over schools.

I suggest a different slogan: a Mutual Society. There are many models from history: the early Christian church, monasteries in the middle ages, the co-operative movement in the 19th century, and building societies in the 20th century before they succumbed to the temptations of capitalism.

John Nicholson


A recent government pledge of £27m for debt advisory bodies coincided with a radio programme on the proliferation of internet-based unregulated, unregistered lending agencies, sucking the heavily indebted section of the population into further debts. It would appear that the citizens of other European countries do not use credit as freely as this country, subscribing to the old-fashioned concept of living within one's means. They, therefore, are emerging from recession more rapidly.

Before the financial meltdown, the letterbox would be besieged with tempting offers of unlimited, cheap loans. I don't recall hearing any clamouring, warning voices from any of these supposedly safeguarding bodies, nor any intervention from the government to curtail these excesses at the time.

Anna Hurwitz

Via email

John Lichfield's article "Belgium – eight months with no government", 13 February) is an outstanding example of the need for first- past-the-post elections, to create strong government. It has been reported the King of Belgium has been advising the prime minister. I can imagine the furore if the British Royal Family was forced to advise the British Prime Minister.

Roy Burns


I agree with Paul Vallely's arguments for giving prisoners the vote ("Populist, illiberal and sickmaking", 13 February), but would they be allowed to stand in elections? This would hardly lead to a prisoner winning an election, but would let them voice their concerns.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

I applaud Robert Fisk's article "Cairo's 50,000 street children were abused by this regime" (13 February). Street children are some of the most marginalised individuals in the world. During turbulent times they often suffer disproportionately and are repeatedly overlooked by society, governments, and the media. The disregard for even their most basic human rights is seen in countries across the world. Fisk's article highlights what this can lead to: a bullet in the back by those tasked with the role of protectors.

Louise Meincke

Advocacy Manager, Consortium for Street Children

London SW9

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