Letters: NHS data-share a classic British mix-up

These letters appear in the Thursday 27th February edition of the Independent

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A persuasive defence of the planned NHS Care.data scheme (Oliver Wright, 26 February) failed to notice our nation’s proven incompetence, however well-intentioned, in the centralised management of data. Surprise, surprise, the NHS has now left more than half of us, by its own initial deadline, still uninformed about its data-sharing proposal.

Being risk-averse, I have already completed an opt-out form. Perhaps Angela Merkel, while she is over here, could give us some tips on management?

Yvonne Ruge, London N20

 

I find the following statement in the government literature the most troubling.

“NHS organisations share information about the care you receive with those who plan health and social care services, as well as with approved researchers and organisations outside the NHS, if this will benefit patient care.”

 This appears to leave the NHS a clear route to the position: “If we allow the sale of parts of this national asset, including patient details, then we will be able to protect 10,000 nurses’ jobs/ 15 A&E departments/ 3,000 midwives (delete as desired).”

The Government has already agreed to sell my DVLA information to supermarkets so that I can be fined if my shopping trip exceeds two hours.

Ray Noy, Wigan

 

The Care.data project has been bedevilled by misinformation from both NHS England and those opposed to it.

Your report of 26 February does not help by stating that Care.data is required to enable the NHS to “identify which GPs are over-prescribing antibiotics [and] which are using expensive branded drugs rather than cheaper alternatives”. Every Clinical Commissioning Group in England has been able to access this sort of data and answer precisely those questions for several years using the NHS’s Epact database.

Why has there been no fuss about this database? Probably because the public are unaware of it and it is completely anonymised, with no patients’ identifiable details stored.

Christopher Anton, Administrator, Drug and  Therapeutics Committee, Pharmacy Department, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals  NHS Trust

 

When a child should be allowed to die

Assisted dying has been having quite a lot of coverage lately. The Belgians are being fair to children, offering them an escape from a horrible death.

At a recent meeting in the Cotswolds, a Liberal Democrat MP and a prospective Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate both stated their approval of assisted dying legislation in this country. We were informed, however, that it was unlikely that the issue would be a part of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. Why not, one wonders.

In my first marriage I had two sons who were born, arguably, into a permanent vegetative state. Neither had any senses or was ever able to hold the weight of his head, the first sign of development.

Before modern medicine they would not have suffered long. My gut feeling at the time was that they should be allowed to die, despite their total inability to make the decision for themselves.

My eldest son John’s tortured existence lasted for 23 years at huge financial cost to the country. He has been dead for around 10 years now and a long time before his death I was informed that his round-the-clock care was costing over £100,000 per annum.

Under such circumstances, in the interests of humanity, would it not be wise to allow assisted dying when parents, medics and a judge agree that, in the interests of the child, this is the correct course of action?

There are many humane causes where the money could be better spent.

Peter John Sipthorp, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

 

Pupils under acute pressure to succeed

I am concerned about the impact that monitoring and relentless assessment are having on the well-being of children.

The pressure on them to “reach their potential” academically is so acute, not least due to the constant reminders to parents in the press, that many are suffering as a result.

I am a year 10 tutor; that is to say children, and they are still children, of 14 and 15. Every two weeks I meet with the students individually or in groups and talk to them about their schooling.

This year all I have dealt with is academic (grade) related stress including regular insomnia and feeling sick all the time. I have been a teacher for 16 years in three schools (including a grammar), been a head of year and a pastoral manager for 10 of these, and have not seen this before.

I am very concerned we look after our young people and educate them to successfully and confidently take their place in the world. Education is about building self-esteem, and stressed students are lowering their self-esteem.

Even just to look at this from an entirely cold economic point of view the country may well be storing up a massive future healthcare and lost-work-day costs as people suffering from stress in teenage years are more likely to continue to do so into adulthood.

Matthew Reece, Head of Design and Technology, The Marlborough Church  of England School,  Woodstock, Oxfordshire

 

The Conservative future is green

To my mind responses to climate change (however it is caused) through renewable energy should fit perfectly with Conservatives (editorial, 26 February).

Renewable energy sources can give individuals the opportunity to control their own energy production, thus keeping it out of the hands of the state; it is by its very nature a form of national self-reliance and thus takes our energy security needs away from foreign production and engagement with murky governments abroad.

In addition, radical innovation in engineering, science and industry is exactly what helped bring Britain to eminence in the first place, giving us a great heritage and reputation at home and abroad. The pioneers of the past would surely be rubbing their hands with glee at the possibilities that modern technology has to offer.

So, come on Conservatives, be true to your whole selves and the past and stop hindering the talents and enterprising spirit of Britain!

John Laird, Rome

 

If, as your correspondent the Rev Dr John Cameron alleges (letter, 25 February), global warming has stopped and is yet to restart, why is it that Alpine glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet continue to diminish and the Arctic ice sheet is at a record low?

The Rev Graeme Jackson, Gloucester

 

Expect low interest rates to go on

Anthony Hilton’s account of the City debate (22 February) was both short and misleading.

I have no wish to see a collapse of small businesses and the creation of large mortgage arrears in the UK, and said no such thing. My case was based around Mr Hilton’s point that the new normal level of interest rates was going to be much lower than the 5 per cent average of the previous decade.

I have published charts of past interest rate levels, so people interested can visit my website, johnredwoodsdiary.com and see for themselves. These show that there is no past normal level and that there are long periods of very low rates from time to time.

During the debate, I also pointed out that outside central London, which is buoyed by foreign cash buying, the UK housing market is showing no signs of excessive bubble-like behaviour through too much credit being extended.

John Redwood MP, Wokingham, House of Commons

 

‘Mail’ rakes up  ancient history

I can think of no politician with greater integrity than Harriet Harman; she is an excellent role model. I am therefore bemused by the Daily Mail’s raking over events of 40 years ago concerning the Paedophile Information Exchange and the National Council for Civil Liberties (“Harman’s row with Mail rages on”, 26 February).

I note that the Mail’s riposte to Harman about the publication of pictures of 12-year-old girls in bikinis is one of aggressive bemusement; but doesn’t the Mail know that no one, especially a male adult, is allowed to get away with taking photographs of children on beaches or playgrounds without raising considerable suspicion?

The Mail should look to itself before accusing others.

Elizabeth Chell, Lyndhurst,  Hampshire

 

Not sufficiently incentivised?

Perhaps the poor performance of Manchester United in Greece on Tuesday night is indicative that Wayne Rooney is not being paid enough.

Derek J Carr, Bristol

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