Letters: Medical Innovation Bill needs full scrutiny

These letters appear in the 18 June edition of The Independent

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The last Parliament considered the Medical Innovation Bill and decided not to allow it to progress in its current form. Doctors, medical organisations and patient bodies all expressed concern that the Bill was unnecessary at best and potentially harmful to patient care at worst. We are alarmed that Lord Saatchi is proposing to change parliamentary procedure and take an unprecedented move to push the Bill through the House of Lords in one day without full scrutiny.

Lord Saatchi claims his Bill will encourage responsible innovation in medical treatments without fear of litigation. However, the current law on medical negligence is already framed to deter clinical interventions that risk disproportionate harm to patients. We are not aware of any evidence which shows that new innovative treatments are not being trialled because of the threat of litigation.

This legislation needs full scrutiny and time for politicians to develop an in-depth understanding of the issues, in discussion with clinicians, academics and patients.

We support exploring other initiatives that can encourage innovation, but this should not be done at the expense of protecting patients and the full democratic process.

Supported by medical organisations, the Innovative Medicines and Medical Technology Review, chaired by Sir Hugh Taylor, has just started its work investigating how innovation can be promoted in the NHS. It is therefore not necessary for the Bill to progress at this time. Medical organisations do not believe the Bill is necessary and this view is strengthened with the work of the Review.

Dr Mark Porter
Chair, British Medical Association Council

Miss Clare Marx
President,  Royal College of  Surgeons

Professor Dame Sue Bailey
President,  Academy of Medical  Royal Colleges

Professor Jane Dacre
President, Royal College of Physicians

Dr Maureen Baker
Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners

Professor Sir Simon Wessely
President, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Dr J P Van Besouw
President, Royal College of Anaesthetists

Dr Suzy Lishman
President, Royal College of Pathologists

Mr Ian Ritchie
President, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh


Life beyond the posh firms

On the subject of poshness as “the new glass ceiling”, I endorse the point made by Kerry Larbalestier (letter, 16 June). There are thousands of jobs outside “elite City and legal firms” which offer as much job-satisfaction and allow their incumbents a life beyond their commitment to the business.

In a modestly successful career I knew many professionals holding senior, well-paid, well-respected positions in financial and law firms in cities other than London. I have encountered entrepreneurs who built their own businesses and succeeded or failed by their own drive and talent, never having to kowtow to the whim of some elitist snob who judged them on the colour of their school tie. Most of these people were state-educated and spoke with accents which reflected their origins.

Who cares about “elite City and legal firms”? Intelligent, ambitious young people can make their mark on the world without having to enter these smug, self-congratulatory organisations.

Richard Stewart-Jones FCMA CGMA
Whittington,  Staffordshire


“Who was your father?”

That was the first question from the interviewers of the posh oil company I was hoping to join. The panel sported regimental ties and gold cufflinks. That was in 1953, so the “Poshness test” is not “new” (headline, 15 June).

After seven years, I felt that I did not “fit in”, a feeling shared by the company. Then I joined a firm of management consultants, who were interested in me, not in my father. My colleagues came from different backgrounds, with different accents, but we had one thing in common: we got results.

William Haines


Admirable though Jeremy Goldsmith’s sentiments about self-improvement are (letter, 17 June), he seems to confuse Received Pronunciation with Standard English.

The former is merely a class accent; the ability to use the latter is an essential communication skill which is not diminished by regional accent. I hope that his career success was more attributable to pursuit of the latter than the former.

Andy Mort


White people playing black roles

It is quite an achievement to write an article on the history of Othello on stage (15 June) without mentioning Olivier. His memorable greatness in the role is eclipsed by his meticulous all-over blacking-up.

Actors are people who make a living by being someone else – except when that someone else is Othello. A white actor is the wrong colour, however subtle and respectful his make-up.

These worthy rules of purity and political correctness are in need of revision. In making an issue of race they are surely too limited. Actors with straight backs must no longer be permitted to play Richard III. Only Jews may enact Shylock. Actors such as David Suchet, Bette Bourne and Brian Bedford should never have been allowed to play Lady Bracknell. Men must be forbidden to play pantomime dames out of respect for the dignity of mothers, ugly sisters and widows.

Peter Forster
London N4


Rachel Dolezal is a white woman trying to pass as black. Why can she not choose her own heritage?

Relative to its size, Savannah, Georgia, has the biggest St Patrick’s day parade in the US. When visiting, I inquired why this should be so, in a city with a predominantly black population. Because, I was informed, “Irishness is an inclusive not an exclusive phenomenon”.

Dr John Doherty
Gaoth Dobhair, Co Dhún na nGall, Ireland


Waterloo, a victory for progress

John Lichfield’s contribution to the counter-factual discussions about the Battle of Waterloo (13 June), is right to emphasise that it was far from an exclusively British victory and that Napoleon’s defeat was at the hands of a combined force of British, Prussians, and many others. But what many overlook is that if they had been defeated, there were several much larger armies of Austrians and Russians queuing up on France’s borders who would eventually have crushed Napoleon on French soil as they had in the winter campaign of 1814.

The implications of defeat coming directly at the hands of the Holy Alliance might have been much more far reaching than at the hands of the Duke of Wellington. Governments that were already reactionary, including ours, might have felt empowered to impose their will on domestic and foreign affairs with greater force.

The White Terror in France might have been much bloodier; the 1830 and 1848 Revolutions might not have happened; French intervention in Spain might have not only reimposed an anti-liberal monarchy but also one, with the backing of Europe’s emperors, to imagine the recovery of its Latin American colonies.

Perhaps we have more to thank the Iron Duke for than we think.

Philip Brindle


Boundary changes: not a Tory plot

In his assault on the Conservative government (letter, 8 June) Ray Love asserts that it has started the process of “introducing boundary changes to Parliamentary constituencies to guarantee Tory governments in the future”.

By Act of Parliament the Boundary Commission is required to review the constituency structure every five years. It is an independent body and its aim is to ensure that the constituencies, with the exception of a few special cases such as the Scottish islands, are of broadly equal size in terms of population.

This is far from the case at present – some have some 50 per cent more electors than others. The Labour Party has resisted change because it gained from this imbalance and in 2011 any updating was blocked by the Lib Dems in retaliation for the Tory opposition to Lords reform.

It may be true that the Conservatives will gain from an equalisation of constituencies. But this should surely not stand in the way of reform.

Michael Foss
Teddington, Middlesex


Afflicted with the evils of crime

So crime has come to the Hebridean island of Canna (“Honesty island has a thief”, 17 June). Residents can now expect a privately run “supermax” prison, a police force crippled with budget cuts and government targets, and an unpopular Crime Commissioner to follow. I bet they wish they’d never contacted the mainland.

Ian McKenzie