Letters: Election sweeteners don’t undo damage to NHS

These letters appear in the December 2 edition of The Independent

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The general agreement in the press appeared to be that George Osborne’s £2bn promise of funding for the NHS constituted some form of electoral sweetener or “lollipop” for voters gearing their minds toward a general election.

Sadly, this follows four-and-a-half years of brutal cuts to our health services and in particular to our mental health services.

As someone who works in community mental health and who has had to navigate all tiers of the psychiatric system in recent months on behalf of a distressed family member, I have seen first-hand the ways in which this funding decimation has played out on the ground.

And George Osborne’s electoral lollipop has come too late for the distraught and desperate families and their many fine professionals pulverised into professional impotence and desperation by an austerity programme  that has savaged equally  the mental health services and the many people  who are drawn into  needing them.

It has come too late for the 16-year-old girl with mental health problems who was kept in police cells for two days because of a lack of care beds.

Mr Osborne’s pre-election lollipop has also come too late for the seven mental health patients who have killed themselves in England since 2012 after being told that there were no beds for them – and for the patient who was denied a bed and who then went on to kill his mother.

Such pre-electoral sweeteners are too late for the many affected by the 2,179 mental health beds cut since 2011. When mental health beds are cut, lives are lost. Sweeteners and lollipops are too late for the seven patients mentioned above.

However, these cuts are not too late for the one in five Coalition MPs with links to private health firms whose asset-stripping of the NHS presents a win-win scenario of both pleasing the public with pre-election lollipops and funnelling more funding to the private sector.

For the sake of the families of those seven people and for the many vulnerable people whose needs can’t be met outside the election period, we urgently need to chart a new politics of mental health provision where our desperately underfunded services finally receive parity with our partners in the developed world. As the election looms and Mr Hunt and Mr Osborne don the industrial high-visibility jackets and hard hats that have become the de rigueur electioneering costume, one might hope that they also stop in to a local mental health facility to see first-hand the damage that their neglect of the mental health agenda has wrought.

It’s the kind of damage that voter lollipops cannot put right.

Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action Party and European Task Force on Austerity and Mental Health
Worthing, West Sussex


Justice delayed is justice denied

Pre-charge bail was introduced 30 years ago to limit the freedom of individuals while police conducted further investigations. No restriction was put on the amount of time police can hold someone on pre-charge bail.

It has led to a perversion of justice where today more than 70,000 people are languishing in a form of legal limbo in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

More than 5,000 of  those have been on police bail for more than six months. Innocent people have been left on pre-charge bail for years before their cases have been dropped or thrown out  of court.

This is a scandal. Those on pre-charge bail have their careers put on hold. The mental anguish of not knowing what will happen to them is in itself a form of punishment without trial. The weight of suspicion grows heavier with each day. There is no right of appeal. All these individuals are innocent until proven guilty. It is a fundamental axiom that justice delayed is justice denied.

Home Secretary Theresa May has called for a time limit. We believe it should be a maximum 28 days, reviewed by a judge and not by police. We welcome her words of support. The Government must now act swiftly to turn words into action.

Baron (Daniel) Finkelstein, David Davis MP, Dominic Raab MP, Janet Street Porter,  John Hemming MP, Nigel Evans MP, Frances Crook, Gavin Millar QC, Roy Greenslade, Baroness (Elizabeth) Butler Sloss, Jon Robins, Sir Edward Garnier QC MP, Baroness (Helena) Kennedy QC, Damian Green MP, Eddy Shah, Renate Samson, Caroline Lucas MP, Steven Barker, Lord (Brian) Paddick, Matthew Elliott, Peter Tatchell, Andy McNab, Lord (David) Craig, Lord  (Guy) Black, Baroness (Jenny) Jones


Media overkill on Black Friday

Your front-page photograph (29 November) of crowds fighting over a television, was presumably meant to illustrate the public hysteria generated by Black Friday.

However, a closer  look at the photo reveals that there are eight customers vying for the television, with four store staff in attendance – and nine photographers (not including the snapper taking the picture) all crowding in to get the shot. More of a media frenzy than a public one.

John Rices


Might Sir Bob save Myleene and Sol?

In the event of a Labour government and a mansion tax, could we encourage Sir Bob Geldof to come up with a charity single to help out Myleene Klass, Sol Campbell and others in their hour of need.

Mr Campbell seems a deserving case, as he would appear to be down to his last mansion.

James Dixon
Newcastle upon Tyne


Great education and small minds

I agree with much of Emma Fox Wilson’s letter (1 December) concerning the behaviour of Andrew Mitchell and David Mellor, but I believe the problem is more fundamental than “stupidity”. I think it is more a question of “great education but little souls”.

Stanley Tyrer
Greenmount, Bury, Lancashire


Move Parliament  to the real world

Penny Mordaunt is the latest of a long line of politicians who seem to have destroyed their own credibility (and any future) by one ill-chosen speech to the House of Commons. Why do they do it?

Westminster is an odd, lonely place. No one appears to be listening to anyone else. MPs can spend a decade in Westminster failing to make any impact at all. In attempts to attract publicity MPs frequently go too far. One is put in mind of Lembit Opik.

Westminster is not, alas, a place where talent, ability or a worthy past are recognised. As someone who once worked for an MP and had a Westminster pass, I would move Parliament out of London altogether. Usually good people behave out of character there, and parliamentarians, both MPs and peers, would regain a sense of proportion if we took them out of London.

Nigel F Boddy


It’s nice to see MPs with a sense of humour in this age of grey identical politicians, but I’m sad that Penny Mordaunt had to stoop to the level of the Bullingdon Club for a laugh.

If saying “cock” is the best our brightest MPs can do, then let’s observe two minutes’ silence to honour the passing of the political bon mot, backbench quip and Churchillian one-liner.

Ian McKenzie


Another man with rare vision

The discovery of another copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623), almost 400 years after its publication, is welcome news. Writing from Paris, John Lichfield says that it is “one of the rarest and most precious books in the world” (report, 1 December). One can readily agree on the preciousness of the book, less so on its rarity, with 233 copies surviving. How would he describe a book of which only a dozen copies have survived? This is the case for Emeric Cruce’s The New Cyneas, published in Paris in the same year.

Long regarded as lost, it is now regarded as a work which pioneered the theory of free trade, and proposed (in the middle of the Thirty Years War) an organisation for world peace which in several respects is still ahead of the UN.

The only known copy in the UK of this remarkable work is in the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature in Senate House, University of London.

Dr Peter van den Dungen
Peace Studies
University of Bradford


Martin Wiggins states (1 December) that “we already knew” that Shakespeare was admired and studied by English Catholics.

What is intriguing is to know whether the Jesuits of St Omer equally admired and studied the works of Marlowe, Kyd, Peele, Middleton and Fletcher, as Shakespeare’s peers, well before Shakespeare became the acknowledged premier among them. In other words, what other playwrights’ writings are found in the library associated with the Shakespeare First Folio?

Thomas Merriam