IoS letters, emails & online postings (19 January 2014)


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I was saddened to read about Joan Smith’s recent experience and that she feels the needs of NHS healthcare professionals are put above patients’ needs (“It’s not difficult. Sick people need doctors”, 12 January).

Even though NHS doctors are confronted with an increasingly challenging and high-pressured environment, our priority is to provide the best possible care. A key blocker is the funding problems that the NHS is facing.

GPs are seeing more people than ever – an estimated  340 million consultations a year. All NHS services are under enormous pressure from a combination of rising demand, falling resources and staff shortages in key specialties. There is little evidence to suggest that problems with GP access are increasing pressure on emergency care.

Joan Smith is right that the government must implement a more robust out-of-hours system. Although four out of 10 GPs continue to work in out-of-hours care, the resources available to the service have remained static for many years despite increases in demand. A system-wide approach is needed, looking at everything from NHS 111 to community care services.

The BMA shares Joan Smith’s concerns that when she called NHS 111 she “got an ‘adviser’... who appeared to be reading from a script.” We have repeatedly warned that removing doctors and nurses from the frontline risked turning the service into nothing more than a call centre. The Government needs to improve the service by making it more clinician-led.

Joan Smith’s aunt’s care was not good enough. We should do better, but we need the Government to stop cutting and allocate sufficient resources to ensure that we really can provide the best care for our patients.

Dr Mark Porter

Chairman, British Medical Association

London WC1

Brian Paddick (“We mustn’t forget what plebgate is really about”, 12 January) suggests that the false claims made by PC Keith Wallis were politically motivated; but that our trust in the police should not be unduly shaken. How can it not be? 

We regarded the policeman as likely to be more honest and honourable than the politician. How wrong we were! By playing down the importance of  “plebgate”, Brian Paddick – an ex-Met officer himself – illustrates just how oblivious the police sometimes are to the high standards of conduct expected of them; and how the spectacle of fellow officers closing ranks to protect their own, further damages their standing in our eyes.

John Boaler

Calne, Wiltshire

It is extraordinary that in the coverage of the death of Ariel Sharon (Special report,  12 January) there was no reference to the wars of 1967 and 1973 when Sharon’s military leadership contributed to the salvation of Israel.

Charles Foster

Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

I’m sure many of us can agree with the thrust of Sarah Hughes’ piece (“Finally, television dramas that know when to stop”, Arts & Books, 12 January) that too many TV dramas overstay their welcome. But when she says that we, the viewers, should “stop demanding” that every series has a sequel, I feel she should be directing her remarks to those who commission and buy programmes. No, this is all about ratings, marketing and advertising space. Downton Abbey action figure anyone?

Geoff Hulme

Altrincham, Cheshire

I agree with your editorial (“A small triumph for democracy”, 12 January). But I feel select committees need to go further. If they brought in members of the public, who worked within the field the committee was discussing, it is more likely they would get a realistic picture of what is happening on the ground. This would allow select committees to hear the voice of the people.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

Katy Guest (“I’m no toff, but I’d prefer a pro-Oxbridge bias”, 12 January) is right to argue that there’s nothing wrong with a pro-Oxbridge bias when it comes to recruitment. However, it is objectionable to see so many from the top public schools being favoured – it is this that concerns we meritocrats.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

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