Pressure to save money has been a feature of the National Health Service throughout the four decades that I have observed it at close quarters (“NHS and its £7.5bn property nest egg”, 29 March).
The Commonwealth Fund analysis last year showed how effective the NHS is at doing a lot for very little, certainly much better than those health systems that rely most on the private sector, the United States and Switzerland. Its main weakness is in timeliness of treatment, and recent data from The King’s Fund highlight that as financial problems rise, waiting time targets, which were prioritised hitherto, are beginning to reflect them.
As debate on public-service funding develops in the coming weeks it should be recognised that there is no place for the prejudiced view “public sector bad, private sector good”. No human enterprise is perfectly efficient but your leader writer is out of order in telling public-sector staff in that patronising manner “in a time of fiscal stringency we all have to accept the discipline... that prevails in the private sector”.
Dr S Michael Crawford
Bingley, West Yorkshire
It is not surprising that hitherto the NHS has not had sufficient pressure to sell off vacant land. Owners of vacant land can hoard it without any financial detriment. Other utilities, such as Network Rail, water and energy companies and commercial organisations such as Tesco, also hang on to land that should be used for housing and other much needed purposes, and pay nothing to the public purse whilst they do so.
Forget mansion taxes, and tax land values, so that the increased value created by planning policies produces substantial income for the public coffers. This will encourage the sale of land and create opportunities for its use.
Leeds, West Yorkshire
While your leading article (“NHS is right to sell off property”, 29 March) is correct in that we’re all having to maximise what we have, it doesn’t emphasise enough that “when it’s gone it’s gone”. David Cameron’s promise of a seven-day NHS will, alone, cost more than the total suggested by NHS property sell-offs. So what can they then sell off in 2016 and beyond?
And where will the property go? The number of flats in new blocks in London with no lights on suggest foreign investors will be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of new investment opportunities.
Your audit of the Coalition Agreement (“Promises, Promises”, 29 March) gives a big tick to living standards, including helping the low-paid. Surely not! Average earnings may be up this year but they won’t be back to 2010 levels until 2017-18 at the earliest. The low-paid have been hit hardest by this government.
The 2010 VAT hike, the cuts in rent benefits and tax credits, the introduction of prohibitive fees for tribunals so industrial justice is denied to this group, and the expansion of zero-hours contracts and involuntary part-time work as well as insecure self-employment all make life worst for those at the bottom. Don’t forget that the majority of households on welfare include people in paid work. Most of the working-age poor earn their poverty, and the coalition record here is emphatically not a success story.
Professor of Social Policy, University of Kent, Canterbury
So, apparently an increasing number of MPs are urging the Government to “Choose Heathrow or Gatwick soon” (29 March). It is becoming ever clearer that none of the old parties are going to do anything other than increase the number of planes circling in the skies over London, worsening noise and air pollution and blowing our targets under the Climate Change Act. At some point, we have to say, enough. We need to end airport expansion and look for new solutions (which include a big investment in high-quality video-conferencing services, to reduce the “felt need” to travel, especially).
Green Party national transport spokesperson