Letters: Fears for the future of GP services

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 31 May, 2013

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At the age of 55, in 2008, I chose to withdraw from complicity in the destruction of the NHS, as Charles Fletcher (letter, 29 May) indicates many others are planning to do.

Starting in 1981 I had been happy to provide one-in-two night and weekend cover, same-day appointments, minor injury management, minor surgery – all the things that people say they want. I would have been delighted to continue, in a fully integrated primary healthcare team, providing a full GP service, but successive governments all felt they knew better and incrementally destroyed the system.

You and many others have not yet fully grasped what is happening to the NHS. It is being intentionally destroyed in order that the sick and injured can be fully exploited for private profit. Doctors, nurses and even patients are being systematically demonised to facilitate the process and shift the blame from government.

Wake up! Get angry!

Steve Ford


Haydon Bridge, Northumberland

There has been considerable discussion about the rise in remuneration for GPs and the changes in out of hours services following the contract changes brought in by the previous government. However there were other changes that occurred including the relaxation of the requirement for GPs in full-time partnership to attend their surgery five days a week and a change in payments, making it less attractive financially to replace a partner than to hire a salaried doctor.

GPs are treated as independent contractors (if they are partners) and thus their income is a share of the profits of the practice even though most of their expenses are either fully paid or substantially subsidised by the monopoly of the NHS. Many younger doctors are trapped in practices run by older GPs and have little prospect of partnership or any meaningful role in practice development.

Surely now is the time to end the dominant role of the GP partners and oblige them to give a partnership after a certain period of time as a salaried doctor (they are all similarly qualified and have annual appraisals) when the doctor will have settled in to the practice and locality.

The NHS is in a powerful position to require this and I consider that patients would benefit from opening up general practice to make it a more attractive career. Too often one can only hear the voices of GP partners and their representatives, rather than of the considerable number of salaried GPs, let alone their patients.

Dr Bridget Burt

Yeovil, Somerset

The big problem is that these days if a GP works at night they will not work the next day as well. This is a “shift system” (letter, 24 May), unlike in the “old days” when we used to work both night and day (letter, 27 May).

Who will pay for extra GPs? I am sure there would be no problem with providing better GP access, day or night, if there were more of us.

Dr Pam Martin

GP, London SE14


Atos tests can slow veterans’ recovery

The news that disabled war veterans are being “humiliated” by the benefits crackdown (28 May) is distressing.

Combat Stress, like many charities working with injured military veterans, has heard stories from those we treat regarding the reassessment process. The veterans we work with are proud, brave, honourable men and women who are living with mental wounds as a result of their military service. They want to work but the trauma they have suffered prevents this, and they often find it difficult to reliably undertake even small everyday tasks. A trip to the shops or a knock at the door can raise anxiety levels and trigger flashbacks to their traumatic experiences.

Being reassessed by Atos could increase anxiety and can slow or even reverse the recovery process. All of our veterans have been in full-time employment but the journey back can be difficult and protracted.

Last week a High Court ruling stated that the reassessment process put those with mental health problems at a substantial disadvantage, and subsequently people could be unwilling to report their condition due to “shame or fear of discrimination”.

We ask Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that psychological injuries be given the same consideration as physical wounds. A lack of understanding can perpetuate the suffering of those brave veterans who have managed to seek help.

Commodore Andrew Cameron

Chief Executive, Combat Stress

Leatherhead, Surrey

As a disabled ex-serviceman, I was judged by Atos on three occasions to be fit for work (subsequently overturned by the appeals tribunal).

The assistance I received to find work took the form of being ordered to attend the offices of a private sector workplace supplier on pain of losing my benefits. The offices were on the first floor of a building with no disabled access,

I need to use a wheelchair. After my alleged failure to attend the interview, I received no more offers of help.

Robert Thomas

Botcheston, Leicestershire


Dawkins can  go to heaven

As a regular reader of The Independent and a life-long Catholic I would like to thank you for your coverage of my Church’s activities. However, the report on hell (29 May) left me wondering.

Cardinal Newman wrote a book called The Development of Christian Doctrine, a concept very difficult for many of us Catholics to take in, let alone our secularist friends. Our understanding of Christ’s teaching increases, hopefully, and therefore changes, and mistakes of the past are rejected, all of which can be very confusing to those of us who seek security in the frills of belief and piety rather than careful understanding.

Papal infallible pronouncements, for instance, are very rare and subject to interpretation and even reformulation; Pope John XXIII made it clear that he had no intention of being infallible. As for the pronouncements of minor Vatican officials, the less said the better.

I have come to the conclusion that the most important thing to understand about Our Lord’s life and teaching is that the Almighty loves everyone, even Richard Dawkins whom I hope to meet in heaven when all shall be clear and we shall have passed (Newman again) “ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem” – from shadows and images into the truth.

Kevin Dean

Blackburn, Lancashire


Do Catholics go to an Islamic, Protestant, or Buddhist hell? If we’re to consider such nonsense, at least let’s have a level playing-field.

D W Evans



Diabetes and Tesco partnership

Joanna Blythman (Voices, 29 May) suggests that our work with food and pharmaceutical companies may be influencing our “interpretation of data and policy goals”.

It doesn’t. Diabetes UK has a long history of providing evidence-based advice to people with diabetes and those at risk of type 2 diabetes.

Take Tesco, the subject of Ms Blythman’s article. Yes, we are pleased to have been chosen as its national charity partner because it means we will be able to spend £10m on research into a vaccine for type 1 diabetes and on supporting those who have diabetes or are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

But this has zero influence on what we think about the issues relating to type 2 diabetes prevention and the facts on this speak for themselves. We took a strong stand on food policy when we decided not to sign up for the Responsibility Deal. We also have a track record of advising people to maintain a healthy weight to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes.

Barbara Young

Chief Executive, Diabetes UK

London NW1


Why I won’t  vote on Europe

I voted against the Common Market in 1975 and am still an instinctive anti. I believe that most people, like me, will not have the time, knowledge or inclination to research the economic questions involved.

I have gone to the polls in every village, district, county, Westminster and European election for 52 years. A question as involved as whether we should leave the EU is best left to the MPs we elected for that purpose. 

If it is decided by referendum, the result will depend on how much money firms and individuals put into the campaigns, the wording of the question, and prejudice. I will not be voting in any referendum. 

R F Stearn

Old Newton, Suffolk


Blamed for all  the world’s ills

I am one of those 1947 baby- boomers on whose watch, according to Michael McCarthy, “the Earth went wrong” (“The life that disappeared while boomers had their fun”, 30 May).

Having been blamed for everything else in sight, I suppose it was only a matter of time before we got it in the neck for the end of the world. Mr McCarthy acknowledges that some baby-boomers may actually have done some good in their time, but that is not enough: we are all, yet again, to be personally responsible for everything that has gone wrong in the last 65 years.

I’m sorry, but I just did not have enough time to fit it all in.

Patricia Lloyd



No joke

If the word “actress” is no longer permitted (letter, 30 May), what happens to our treasured “as the bishop said to the actress” double-entendres? “As the bishop said to the actor” is out of the question, if we accept the Church of England’s word that there can be no gay bishops.

Peter Forster

London N4


End this scourge

Many of your correspondents blame religion for the outrage perpetrated at Woolwich, perhaps rightly so. Will they therefore join with me in calling for our withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights so that we may legislate away this scourge on our national life? Presumably at gunpoint, and with much use of re-education camps...?

Thought not.

R S Foster




Nicky Fraser (letter, 30 May), discussing lineside flora on the railways, says that weeds are unlucky flowers that have landed in the wrong place. I shall now be more appreciative of the acres of Japanese knotweed and parrot’s feather.

Adrian Durrant

Eastbourne, East Sussex


And the rest

Your poll about the effect on voters of Boris Johnson’s extra-marital activities (30 May) unaccountably omitted the option: “I would never have voted for this self-serving right-wing narcissist anyway, so the question is redundant”.

Michael McCarthy

London W13