One the way to a job interview in an NHS hospital, I was confronted with media reports about the Government's plans to encourage the export of the "NHS brand".
The NHS is more a concept encompassing "care free at the point of delivery" than a brand. As we veer towards an "any provider" model of care delivery, I see constant reminders of the huge variation in the quality, organisation, IT systems, management and finances of the hospitals and trusts.
Thus it will be brands such as Imperial, Moorfields and Stanmore, that have developed a reputation for highly specialist services, rather than the NHS as a whole, that will benefit from any export opportunity. Though this may be desirable, it will also increase the variation in the standard of service.
Apparently the Imperial College NHS Trust might be a candidate for this new little bit of enterprise.
Last summer, having broken my elbow, I was admitted to Charing Cross hospital for surgery. Having waited all day in my hospital nightie on the appointed day, I was sent home that evening, being told that someone had had a heart attack in the theatre before me and there were "no spare beds" to accommodate him.
I was rebooked at another Imperial trust hospital the following week, arrived at 7.30am, waited in my nightie till 4.45, was taken up to the anaesthetic room, waited another half hour and was then told they "couldn't find an anaesthetist" and sent home again. The following day I did get the op, but a week later the wound became infected.
I was readmitted for a further week while they waited to identify the bug, during which time, while the day nursing staff did a sterling job, albeit overworked, the night staff were appalling. At least once I caught one of the nurses writing down my readings in someone else's folder; and on another night they refused to change the bedding of a patient with a broken pelvis opposite who had suffered diarrhoea, since "the day staff will see to that".
World class? I don't think so; bordering on third world more like. Of course you can bet that someone will make sure that the international branch of the Imperial trust won't be offering this kind of stuff to the fat cats of Abu Dhabi.
Simon G Gosden refers to the perception that the NHS is "dismal and dire" (letter, 21 August). I have found the NHS to be excellent whenever I have had cause to use it from GP to A and E and elective cataract surgery. It has always served me well. I wonder how the critics would find the US health system functioned if they were unfortunate enough to need it and had insufficient funds.
The idea of "exporting the NHS brand" makes the blood run cold. Nowhere do I read, "Free at the point of need", which is the NHS brand if anything is. If we are not exporting that we should be deeply ashamed of ourselves and our betrayal of the guiding principal of the NHS
Leamington Spa, Warkwickshire
What matters is WikiLeaks, not Assange
WikiLeaks highlighted war crimes by the United States in Iraq. It publicised that the United States military, following its invasion of Iraq killed thousands of Iraqi people in ways contrary to the Geneva Conventions and other international standards. Private Bradley Manning is likely to spend the rest of his life in a US jail for bringing these crimes to the attention of WikiLeaks.
Yet much of the world's media, including, I am sorry to say, The Independent, is obsessed with the truth of what one man did that was inappropriate towards two women. Assange may be a man who behaves improperly towards women, but he hasn't even been charged, let alone convicted. Innocent until proven guilty? Not in this case.
And now we're told again and again that the Ecuadorian government bullies journalists. This may be true, but there's nothing like journalists being given a hard time to make other journalists angry and make them lose their sense of perspective.
If The Independent truly represents liberal values, it should make a stand against British, Swedish and American governments who are willing to abuse extradition procedures in order to try to lock up a man who is part of an organisation that has exposed illegal behaviour and hypocrisy on a massive scale. Even if Assange is himself a nasty piece of work, that would do nothing to change the issues he represents.
Are we going to be seen as bullying Ecuador over the Julian Assange affair? Surely if the Ecuadorian authorities want to put up with the massive inconvenience of having him live in their embassy under diplomatic immunity we should respect that, shouldn't we?
Isn't Assange effectively serving a prison sentence? Leave him where he is. Let him calm down. The whole business will end in time as Julian Assange and the Ecuadorians come to see it is in their interest for it to end. Then no doubt we will all be treated to the second episode of the Julian Assange show.
Nigel F Boddy
Stan Labovitch (letter, 22 August) seems to be confusing the Galapagos with Devil's Island or Riker's Island, and if his intention is to give Julian Assange a bad time, he might like to rethink his choice of destination.
The Galapagos are not the world's-end hellhole he appears to think they are: they enjoy a generally pleasant climate, stunning landscapes and fascinating wildlife. And while The Origin of Species may be a rather dry exposition, expanding Mr Assange's permitted reading to the collected works of Charles Darwin would give him a genuinely fascinating insight into modern biology, psychology and genetics. No contest with a cubbyhole and improvised shower in a Knightsbridge embassy building, I'd say.
Olympic gold is honour enough
Newspapers have been falling over themselves in promoting the idea that there should be honours all round for those who won gold medals at the London Olympics.
When I gave expert evidence to the latest Select Committee inquiry into the honours system, I repeated what I have always contended: that an Olympic gold medal is honour enough, globally recognised, and there is no need for national topping up by our dodgy honours system.
At the same Select Committee in May 2012, Sir Roy Kerslake, Secretary to the Cabinet and chairman of the Honours Committee, made the same point, stating that winning an Olympic Gold medal should not lead to the award of an honour; this should only happen if a person in addition has a record of outstanding work in charities or other public good works.
There are two criteria for deciding who should receive an honour: those who have done conspicuous acts repeatedly beyond their job and duty, and those who in either civil or military life have performed acts of great bravery – no one else.
Eton rowing lake for all
I do not recognise David Thomas's description of the rationale of Eton rowing lake ("Come and share my Eton playing fields", 21 August). He took issue with the Olympic rowing having been held on Eton College's "private" rowing lake, and sneered at the college having built the lake over 2km long as the Thames was "cluttered with pleasure boats". No doubt he thought of it as a millionaire's playground for a few Hooray Henries.
The length of the lake is of course precisely the distance required for high-level rowing competitions, which were surely planned to be held there from the start. Indeed, a number of international regattas have already been held there, including the Rowing World Championships in 2006. The Paralympic rowing and a 2013 World Cup events are set to follow, among others.
More importantly, contrary to the main thrust of Mr Thomas' article, the lake is a treasured community facility, being used by over 100 schools, clubs, universities and the Army.
The grounds surrounding the lake are open to and used by, walkers, joggers and cyclists, and six triathlons and a road race, open to all, use the venue each year. I can personally attest to the excellence of the venue for triathlons, having been both a participant and a spectator.
I hardly think therefore that the College have kept the lake to themselves. Had they not invested in the lake some years ago, one would presumably have had to be built for the Olympics at additional cost to the taxpayer.
So I found it sad that Mr Thomas felt it more important to bang the drum about privilege than to give credit where it is due.
The sacred rats of India
Kartar Uppal is right that there is a Hindu temple dedicated to rats (letter, 22 August ). However he has spiced up the story by saying that it is considered auspicious to eat food that has been eaten by the rats first. Devotees go to feed the rats, not to eat rat food.
Hindus believe all life is sacred and we humans should not resort to violence towards other living beings that share this planet, whether they are rats or badgers. I am sorry to have put a dent in Mr Uppal's otherwise entertaining story!
Are you trying to be funny?
Having just read two pages containing the "100 Best Jokes from the Edinburgh Festival" (22 August) without so much as a smile, I cracked up over Ben Chu's business column: ("Sir David Walker recently suggested that if banks had been able to charge for current accounts they would not have needed to miss-sell dodgy interest-rate products to customers. That sounds like a criminal who claims that if only you'd let him rob your house, he wouldn't have needed to steal your car."
Perhaps it's time for professional comedians to be running our banks instead – at least they don't expect to be taken seriously.
Now, there's an idea
The Government's new-found desire to spend more money on sporting endeavour, and its recent pronouncement that schools should put more emphasis on physical education by extending the hours allocated to it, both fit nicely with its ongoing policy of permitting headteachers to take full financial responsibility in their schools.
It would prove deliciously ironic if, in pursuit of these new sport-related priorities, they decided to buy up local pieces of unused land, cover them with grass and call them, say, playing fields.
As one who refuses to dodge a texter aiming straight for me on the pavement, I have to confess to a recent dilemma on seeing a reader of what turned out to be, perhaps inevitably, Fifty Shades of Grey heading straight at a lamp-post.
John Scott Moncrieff