Letters: An open NHS is the way to improve patient safety

These letters appear in the November 20 edition of The Independent

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The efforts of the NHS to improve patient safety through greater candour have been hit by the reluctance of trainee doctors to report failings because their anonymity can’t be guaranteed (“Trainee doctors ‘too scared to blow the whistle’”, 19 November).

There are also thousands of NHS professionals without an effective means to report concerns. And this further undermines the NHS’s efforts to improve patient safety.

It’s a travesty that thousands of specialist NHS professionals remain unregulated despite performing procedures and tests on patients that could cause harm.

All staff are able and should raise any concerns they have. But if regulated professionals with a duty to report mistakes and concerns are afraid of speaking out, where does that leave unregulated practitioners or those on voluntary registers to whom the NHS’s duty of candour does not apply?

Amanda Casey
Chair, Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists
Lichfield, Staffordshire


Steve Richards’ excellent article on the problems at the Colchester hospital fails to mention the responsibility carried by the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, set up under the Government’s NHS reforms to commission care for its local population and alongside that given the responsibility to monitor the multimillion-pound contracts placed with  its local hospital. If, under government reforms, an NHS commissioning body cannot monitor what it buys from an NHS hospital, what chance do we have when these clinical commissioning groups are placing contracts with an increasing number of private-sector providers?

Peter Boileau


Shame on those who side with terror

Four rabbis and a policeman are murdered in a place of prayer in Jerusalem using knives, guns and hatchets and some members of our political class are unable to condemn this terror attack without reservation.

If murdering innocent civilians was not enough, there were then celebrations by Palestinians giving out sweets and calling for more killings.

The Liberal Democrat MP David Ward tweets that the attack is a result of Palestinians “driven to madness by the failure of the international community to deal with Israel”. On the same day, Baroness Warsi also equated Israelis wanting to pray at a holy site, the Temple Mount, to terrorists killing people in a synagogue.

Such distortions only give succour to those whose aim is not only the destruction of Israel but the wider goal of the spread of fanatical Islamic fundamentalism throughout the world.

The Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps rightly tweeted that Baroness Warsi was speaking for herself and not the Tory Party. Nick Clegg also needs to distance himself from David Ward. Both of them should lose the backing of their respective parties.

To be seen on the side  of terror is not acceptable for any mainstream  British politician and is completely irresponsible.

Paul Corrick


On Tuesday, BBC News gave extended coverage to the murder of four Israelis in Jerusalem at the hands of Palestinians. When would the killing of four Palestinians by Israelis last have been considered worthy of such coverage?

On Wednesday, they reported, with little commentary, that the Israeli Prime Minister had ordered the demolition of the homes of the murderers, where their families still live. If any Palestinian leader had ordered any such thing the international outcry would have been deafening.

Why is this institutional imbalance so entrenched?

Kenneth Wilson
Renwick, Cumbria


Lack of dining car is food for thought

Simon Calder’s views on Eurostar are extraordinary (“Why I am a Eurostar sceptic”, 12 November). I cannot imagine going back to the hassle of air travel to Paris after the convenience of Eurostar. Nor does he seem interested in the green debate about whether we should still be flying polluting planes when  we have high-speed  clean-energy trains.

This ought to be one of the main justifications for a more extensive network of high-speed trains within the UK instead of all this stupid negative debate about HS2.

As ever, the Brits think that they know better than our often more successful Continental friends.

My only objection to Eurostar, and one hopefully that Deutsche Bahn may resolve if and when it  starts running from  St Pancras, is the lack of  a proper dining car.

Eurostar offers standard passengers croissants and pot noodles in a miserable snack bar; and first-class passengers get not much more appetising airline-style packaged meals.

Right from the start this seemed odd, especially when the French pride themselves on their cuisine, and Britain had a worthy tradition of dining-car service on  long-distance trains.

It used to be one of the great joys of longer journeys to be served good-quality meals while whizzing through the countryside. I do not believe the demand no longer exists. 

National Express axed the much-loved London to Norwich dining car before losing the franchise, and Abellio has shown no interest in reviving it. There used to be a nightly stampede at Liverpool Street to the dining car because there were always fewer places than the number of would-be diners.

In an age when companies are falling over themselves to provide luxury goods and services, why are no enterprising rail companies trying to  reinvent the dining car?

Gavin Turner
Gunton, Norfolk


Comparing Saudi with Isis is unhelpful

Saudi Arabia’s beheading of those it condemns as criminals may be barbaric (Brian Parkinson, Letters, 18 November). However, the barbarism of Isis is of a completely different order, including “ethnic cleansing” on a large scale; cruel religious persecution; the massacre of prisoners of war; and (without respect of age or sex) of the members of  a tribe that resisted  its tyranny.

Most international opinion has understandably condemned the gruesome murders of Western hostages, some of whom had undertaken humanitarian work in Syria, and one of whom, Alan Henning, had been found innocent of any crime by an Islamic court before his murder.

We may judge Saudi Arabia’s reliance on capital punishment abhorrent, but to compare its actions with those of Isis is unhelpful.

Western media have certainly “in general” said little about Saudi executions compared with their coverage of Isis’s atrocities, but they have certainly not been silent on the subject.

Ralph Houlbrooke


Unlike Brian Parkinson, I am very much in favour of capital punishment and find that I can quite easily spot the difference between the illegal killing of innocent hostages and the legal killing of convicted criminals.

Saudi Arabia, it is true, brings the death penalty into disrepute (by including victimless crimes among its capital offences) but then the Saudi regime simultaneously manages to bring prisons, courts, Islam, politics, education and money into disrepute. I hear no one using moral equivalence to attack any of those.

Keith Gilmour


TTIP would stop us taking back railways

Contrary to Alan Gent’s letter (19 November), many of us are immensely concerned that, alongside the wholesale destruction of the NHS, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will contain legislation that will prevent privatised companies from ever being renationalised.

Given that every poll I’ve ever seen has suggested that an overwhelming proportion of the UK voting public believes that the railways should be renationalised, and I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t think that the water companies would be better in our hands, it seems astonishing that the Labour Party isn’t shouting their opposition from the rooftops.

Except they aren’t in opposition. If they wonder why those of us who used to support them no longer do, they might look at that.

Manda Scott
Clungunford, Shropshire


PR gets my vote to improve democracy

The best way for politicians to get people to vote (“Make polling days Bank Holidays so more people vote, say MPs”, 14 November) is the way they least like.

In the Scottish referendum the turnout was around 80 per cent because everyone knew they had a voice. I first voted 63 years ago and my vote has never counted. I have always lived in a constituency in which one party had clear dominance.

Proportional representation is the only way to give every person a voice. I look forward (with regret) to my vote not counting next May.

John Laird
Darley, North Yorkshire


Will Cupid’s dart hit the bullseye?

I hope that the search is now on for another gay bull to be Benjy’s civil partner.

Peter Forster
London N4