As a graduate in health studies, service user and carer, I fear that the coalition's NHS reforms are a leap in the dark and have rightly been put "on hold" ("Cameron forced to retreat...", 3 April). Abolishing all local bureaucracies was a gravely flawed proposal, allowing potential financial mismanagement by rogue private consortia.
Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts should be merged to create locally accountable community healthcare commissions controlled by experienced NHS managers and representatives of patients and professionals at all levels. These bodies would act as a buffer between central government and GP commissioners by monitoring consortia's spending and overseeing planning .
Commissioning powers should also be extended to hospital consultants and senior nursing staff to fund specialist areas of healthcare such as oncology, maternity services and transplant surgery. The community healthcare commissions should also integrate local GP surgeries with hospital services.
Independent commissions would be accountable to the taxpayer through the National Audit Office. That way, GPs would not be handed an open prescription book for the majority of NHS services or an open cheque book.
I was disappointed to read the headline "Cameron signals retreat on NHS reforms..." (3 April). Last May marked a paradigm shift in British politics with the formation of a stable coalition of parties, and an end to political spin with words such as "retreat" and "humiliating". What hope is there of the public backing Yes to Fairer Votes if you do not welcome discussion and compromise?
Iain Duncan Smith claims people want to carry on working past retirement age. He means that the Government hopes people will work until they drop, so it won't have to pay a penny in state pension. I once respected Duncan Smith, but he has become the Government's callous axe man. He is taking away, with a military-style approach to social welfare, from those who already have very little. Many women who have brought up children and then returned to work – many in hard-working menial and physical jobs – will never make the new retirement age of 66. Consider too the number of chronically sick and disabled about to lose their incapacity benefits or disability living allowance: these, it seems, are to be decided by private firms, with no medical qualifications, paid high commission on results. Is this the cold-hearted society this Government now wants to create? Thatcherism lives again, but this IDS brand is even more selfish and callous than the original, if that were possible.
When I received a letter from pension and benefits HQ, telling me that multimillionaire David Cameron was grabbing £40 each month from my already tiny pension, I wept. It seems so brutal and mean spirited to hit those of us so vulnerable and already barely scraping by. Mr Cameron has a personal fortune and hasn't a clue how the truly impoverished get by.
You report on the new law on positive action that "from 6 April it will be legal to recruit or promote a candidate of equal merit to another candidate if the employer reasonably thinks that person is underrepresented in the workforce or they suffer a disadvantage" ("When I learnt I was picked for the job because I was black I was devastated", 3 April). It sounds to me as if the new law will give employers the opportunity to set up interviews that do not discriminate, but to make job offers that do.
West Bromwich, West Midlands
Your recent article "Direct debits can be your best friend or your worst enemy" highlights the charge for paying your TV licence through quarterly payments (3 April). Unlike most utility or consumer bills, which are usually paid in arrears, the TV licence is a fixed annual fee, payable in advance in one lump sum. But we offer a variety of payment options to spread the cost. It is easy to avoid paying the £1.25 per quarter premium by choosing another payment option.
TV Licensing, London WC2
Your article "Royals in exile" (3 April) brings into stark focus the collective lunacy building in this atrophied land towards a forthcoming marriage. This country needs to come of age and put away an unhealthy obsession with dressing its national image in fairy tales and nepotism. Only then will we be able to consign the hysterical idiot sycophants and their ilk, who maintain the system of inheritance of public office, to a history which will be best remembered as an impediment to meritocracy and, ultimately, to democracy.
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