I attended an outpatient clinic at one of the large London hospitals. I arrived 10 minutes before the appointment time and was depressed to see about 40 people already waiting.
After about 10 minutes I was called in by a nurse who asked me various questions, some of which were answered by the referral letter she had on her clipboard and others of which seemed irrelevant to my condition. She then told me to go out and wait for the doctor to call me. He called me four and a quarter hours later.
Coincidentally we were having supper that evening with a doctor friend who works at the hospital. When I told him of my experience he grinned and said that, if the Government plays games with the hospital over waiting times, the hospital reciprocates. He said my waiting time will have been recorded as 10 minutes, as that’s how long I waited before seeing the nurse. The fact that I waited another four and a quarter hours before seeing the doctor was irrelevant (“Revealed, how targets make the A&E crisis far worse”, 31 October).
I asked him if all outpatient clinics at the hospital had a nurse whose role was to call people in and tick them off in order to fix their waiting time and he said yes, as it enabled the hospital to achieve its waiting time target.
Stick to the ethics of the Co-op bank
Over the past two decades many charities and campaigning groups have moved their accounts to the Co-operative Bank and urged others to do so. A major reason for this was the bank’s ethical policy – which sets out clearly and uniquely how monies will and will not be invested.
As customers, we call those involved in setting out the bank’s future to do their utmost to set in stone the continuance of the Co-operative Bank ethical policy and the underlying commitments to customer consultation, well-resourced implementation, third-party independent audit and warts-and-all reporting. The establishment of these commitments in the Articles of Association of a new entity would provide serious reassurance that the Co-operative Bank can continue to be a world leader in ethical investment.
Head of Campaigns, Action Aid
General Manager, Animal Aid
Director, Burma Campaign UK
Director, Ethical Consumer
Director of Policy and Campaigns, Friends of the Earth
Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
Head of UK Campaigns, Oxfam
Ents Officer, People & Planet
Director, Pesticide Action Network
Chief Executive Officer, ShareAction
Director, Up the Ethics
Executive Director, War On Want
Director, World Development Movement
Food banks see depth of need
Your recent pieces giving details of vastly increasing numbers of people having recourse to food banks, and highlighting the work of the excellent Trussell Trust, gave a considerable underestimate of the number of people in need.
There are many food banks operating independently, including the one in my home town, which has within it areas of the worst deprivation in the country, and many other organisations working in this area of need.
Additionally, there is a huge network of soup kitchens, most of which have experienced not only an increased demand, but a changing one. For the past 20 years the kitchen with which I am involved had an attendance of an average of 35, mainly single men; this has now risen to an average of 95 and sadly includes families.
It has become apparent that a significant proportion of the increased need is directly attributable to the imposition of draconian benefit sanctions; for example, being late for an interview means two weeks of benefit being halved.
One wonders too what effect the operation of this draconian system has on the front-line workers in offices paying benefits who are prevented from using any professional discretion.
War’s forgotten casualties
On Remembrance Day, please spare a thought for all the many munitions workers, mostly young women, who were killed and injured by their work producing munitions. They are just as much casualties of war as front-line troops.
Many of these forgotten casualties of war were not only killed and injured by accidents and explosions in munitions factories but by their exposure to very toxic chemicals, with many dying of toxic liver overload and conditions such as aplastic anaemia which can be precursor conditions to cancers. There are lists with names and addresses of some of these casualties now posted on the internet.
The legacy of the exposure to toxic chemicals can be passed in the form of cell mutations to future generations.
Brighouse, West Yorkshire
HS2 will be no good to us
I live about a third of the way from Birmingham to London and am interested to know what use HS2 will be to the many travellers like me who would have to travel nearly 40 miles either by road or current rail north-west into Birmingham in order to access the line. This would be pointless and both time- and energy-consuming.
Assuming that the majority of rail users travelling between Birmingham and London will use HS2, what will become of the current regular services on the existing track? It would appear inevitable that with loss of revenue on these services they will be reduced, leaving those of us not in the major conurbations much worse off.
We are being told much about the ability of HS2 to reduce travelling times and to increase capacity for passengers. But I have seen nothing about its use as a means of transporting goods. The high-speed rail through the tunnel between Folkestone and Calais takes a substantial amount of goods traffic, particularly at night.
Surely there should be an opportunity to use HS2 to carry a substantial proportion of goods, particularly at night, between the North, the Midlands and London rather than have it clogging up the roads.
Peter Kampman (letter, 2 November) writes from Edinburgh: ”I have yet to read about [HS2’s] connectivity to Europe”. I can advise him not to hold his breath. Seven years after Eurostar services started from St Pancras, the East Coast train company website still tells us Paris is “not a valid destination”. Eurostar and HS2 are for Londoners. The rest of the country can go hang.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Etiquette for a lover’s letter
Keith Flett (letter, 2 November) says he is reassured by Rebekah Brooks choosing to communicate with Andy Coulson, during their affair, by sending a letter. It would, perhaps, have been more reassuring to Andy Coulson if the letter had been handwritten and not typed and saved on a computer.
Letters from lovers, close friends and family should be hand-written and personal. I have a large box full of hand-written letters from my late husband which is one of my most valued possessions. I wonder if Andy Coulson kept this particular letter from Rebekah Brooks, or was it shredded instantly?
Written out of history
I look forward to making a judgement on your new front cover on Thursday, as someone who bought the original Watford-printed issue and has stuck with the paper since.
I am puzzled, however, that you mention in your Letter from the Editor (2 November) three of the founders of The Independent, but omit that giant of Fleet Street, Brett Straub. Has he done something to upset you, or was his role in the Leveson Report just one PR stunt too many?
Nothing cancels Guantanamo
Your paean for President Obama (leading article, 2 November) is misjudged. Whatever good he does, you must never forget the abomination that is Guantanamo Bay. Innocent men have been “disappeared”.
Whatever comment you may make on behalf of the USA or its President, you must never end without qualifying it by mentioning Guantanamo Bay. To do otherwise is to be complicit in this crime.
Cottingham, East Yorkshire
Howard Jacobson (2 November) has completely missed the point about the Paxman-Brand encounter. Democracy is meaningless when, once in power, all our politicians are the same, whatever their previous rhetoric. Corporate greed is ever channelling wealth into the hands of the very few and creating a disenfranchised generation – who will revolt.
Hove, East Sussex