IoS letters, emails & online postings (8 January 2012)

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I applaud and support The IoS appeal for the Merlin hospital in Southern Sudan ("The civil war has ended – now the war on disease has begun", 1 January). However, when a country's president is indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, with over two million civilians slaughtered, it is wrong to portray the situation as a civil war...

The health system is abominable not because of rebel infighting but because Omar al-Bashir has blocked trading routes. Starvation and disease are part of his genocidal strategy. The huge influx of people to the south is not indicative of a joyous homecoming. Rather, it is a consequence of Bashir withdrawing citizenship for southerners domiciled in the north. This means no jobs, education or healthcare. They are forced to go south, despite the fact that services are at breaking point. That is precisely why the work of the Merlin hospital is such a vital lifeline, the case for which Emily Dugan made compellingly.

Tess Finch-Lees

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

The cold-case investigation team and forensic scientists who have belatedly allowed the Metropolitan Police to bring to justice two of the men involved in the 1993 racist murder of Stephen Lawrence are to be congratulated for their thoroughness.

Perhaps it is now time for them to investigate with similar enthusiasm the death of Blair Peach, the New Zealand-born anti-racism campaigner who was knocked unconscious during a demonstration against the National Front in Southall on 23 April 1979 and died the next day. The conviction of the member of the former Metropolitan Police Special Patrol Group responsible for striking Mr Peach would do much to show that the Met has indeed changed. As would a successful prosecution of his silent colleagues for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

John Hein


The NHS is being destabilised to establish a competitive market system incorporating for-profit private providers and the double-edged sword of patient choice, in place of a planned system of public healthcare ("Drop perilous NHS reforms, say leading health professionals", 1 January). Key to the Government's reforms is a target of £20bn in savings, to be achieved by 2015. With more expensive treatments and high patient expectations, it is just not possible to improve financial efficiency to the extent the coalition government proposes, without it seriously affecting patient care.

Further, the projected cost of the reorganisation, £3bn, is money drawn away from frontline care. The risk now is that with continuing commercialisation and a cash squeeze, public support for the principles of the NHS could erode, opening the way to extending charges like top-up fees and co-payments, and by implication encourage private insurance.

The Health and Social Care Bill is a recipe for the NHS to become an insurance system rather than a provider of our healthcare.

Dr Kailash Chand

Stalybridge, Greater Manchester

We need to stop switching between the terms assisted dying and assisted suicide ("Change 'unsafe' law on assisted dying, says ex-police chief", 1 January).

The word suicide carries an implication of despair and irrational behaviour. Assisted dying is a rational decision made by a person who wishes to manage the timing of their death.

Palliative care, however excellent, can never achieve the alleviation of all suffering. A painless, reliable, tranquil assisted death is a morally and socially justifiable personal option. And if we wish for a dignified end then we must accept its necessary means. It should not be a crime for a friend or loved one to provide support.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

The world's largest solar plant is in Spain, a country known for sunshine. The UK, better known for rain, makes little use of water power to produce electricity, unlike our forebears who used fast-flowing rivers to power the mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Large-scale hydroelectric schemes are in use in Scotland and Wales, but these take many years to develop and build, whereas smaller local schemes using materials and equipment made in the UK could provide a valuable and reliable service to the community.

R F Bowler

Higham, Lancashire

Tom Hodgkinson refers to "volunteers" in an article ostensibly about starting a retail business, and says, "I asked them to look busy" (The New Review, 1 January). Is this the next frontier for the unpaid internship juggernaut?

Matt McKeever

London NW3

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