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Saturday 8 October 2011
Letters: NHS reform and the House of Lords
Lords' duty to block dismantling of the NHS
We the undersigned, citizens of this country mainly involved in the care and cultural industries, wish to make clear that the Government's Health and Social Care Bill, about to arrive at the House of Lords, was brought to the House of Commons without a democratic mandate from the people.
This is evident from the absence of a legislative proposal for the National Health Service in either of the Coalition partners' election manifestos, and from David Cameron's statement before the election that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the service. How can the latter be squared with the creation of at least five new bodies to manage the NHS, centralising power to the unelected and unaccountable?
We therefore call upon the House of Lords to exercise their constitutional responsibility and reject this Bill. If they fail to carry out this vital duty, then they risk going down in history as having colluded in the underhand dismantling of a public service that is a hallmark of our civilised society.
Sylvestra Le Touzel
And 28 others
As a hospital specialist working in two NHS trusts, I must make it clear that the contents of this letter are my personal views.
While we are aware of the financial stringencies that the current economic situation has imposed upon us, across the world people look at the NHS as an icon of what can be achieved in healthcare provision for the citizens of a society. The principle that in the UK we all contribute to the financial pot which looks after us is a model which traverses political and social differences and brings us together as one nation.
The Coalition Agreement determining much of UK Government policy, promised no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. However, that is exactly what is proposed in the Health and Social Care Bill.
In the NHS we strive to be more efficient day to day and to spend taxpayers' money wisely. That is the reality, whatever others may assert.
The proposals enshrined in the Bill run the risk that, not this year or next year, but in the fullness of time, we will move away from the model that through our contribution in taxes we look after each other. Once that core principle of the NHS is gone, we will not be able to bring it back.
Dr Adrian Heald
One fifteenth of the NHS workforce are to have their jobs transferred to the private sector by 2013. Ninety thousand NHS staff will have to set themselves up as businesses or reapply for their jobs with a social enterprise or an international healthcare company or a private equity company by 2013.
What is in place to prevent NHS service provision being bought up by venture capitalists who may then sell it on to multinationals, or to prevent successful NHS social enterprises being eventually sold on to multinationals?
Ed Miliband is right to be concerned about protecting British institutions from markets that by their nature must prioritise private interest above the public good. We have seen with the banks where blind faith in the markets can lead.
The US spends 17 per cent of GDP on healthcare. Britain spends 9 per cent and was rated in a paper published this year in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine as one of the most effective healthcare systems in the world. Let's not give this away.
Let us hope that the decision by the Bank of England to go for quantitative easing is going to work. Nonetheless, I am sceptical about using monetary expansion as a substitute for a sound fiscal policy in dealing with this prolonged recession.
Based on economic argument and historical evidence, I believe that the outcome of monetary policy tends to be asymmetrical, depending on the conditions of the economy. While monetary devices are useful in fine-tuning an economy in times of prosperity, they can hardly claim success in ending a persistent recession.
Besides, with the underlying inflationary pressure of rising material costs and, at the first hint of inflation, higher wage demands, monetary expansion at present risks rousing the stagflation monster lurking just beneath the surface.
It occurs to me that the best way that the Bank of England could ease the current financial situation is to distribute the £75bn of new money directly to the people. Mr Cameron would be the first and only Tory Prime Minister actually to do something positive for the electorate.
Money would be spent on the high street, the holiday industry would prosper, money would be invested and everybody would vote Tory for the rest of their lives. The only losers would possibly be some greedy bankers who are getting all the money now.
Pevensey Bay, East Sussex
Dr Nigel Sleigh-Johnson (letter, 6 October) attempts to defend the current financial reporting standard by claiming that there is no evidence to support the claim that the global financial crisis was caused by the method of accounting. I have no doubt that he is right: the major factor was wild speculation.
Nevertheless a method of accounting that counts chickens before they are hatched is clearly dangerous and could easily have been a contributory factor in the collapse.
King's Lynn, Norfolk
Our first quarter of a century
It was something of a shock to find out that I've now been buying The Independent for 25 years. I've been an Indy reader since the second issue. I would have been there from the first issue if it hadn't sold out so rapidly in my neck of the woods. Despite the odd blips it's been an enjoyable, informative, thought-provoking and entertaining ride.
There are a trio of my favourite journalists that I'd like to raise a celebratory glass to; two of whom have been with the Indy from day one. I'm speaking of your Washington correspondent Rupert Cornwell, who writes so perceptively whether he's addressing American politics, culture or sport, and your estimable arts editor, David Lister.
Aside from that pair of Indy doyens I must also single out your tireless cricket correspondent, Stephen Brenkley, for praise – it's always a joy to read his copy. I imagine he didn't think he'd been writing so much about corruption and cricket politics, as opposed to match reports, when you hired him.
Here's to the next quarter of a century.
Martyn P Jackson
Congratulations on reaching 25. My wife and I started reading your paper on day one and by chance kept the first edition. The 32-page publication (cover price, 25p) was different from the competition, and as you have remained "independent" in your views and not been tied to political parties we have remained loyal readers.
Wishing great success for the next 25 years.
Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire
As a young civil servant active in my trade union in the late 1980s, I was described to a members' meeting as having "an omnipresent copy of The Independent".
In 2011, as a middle-aged vicar, my job may have changed but the choice of newspaper hasn't. Congratulations on your 25 years and here's to the next 25 – for both of us.
The Rev Dave Thompson
Congratulations on the 25th anniversary of The Independent. I have not missed a copy (apart from when abroad) in all those years, and have never been disappointed at my choice. I value good writing and a balance of views. When friends come to stay, they often express surprise at how good it is; I hope they will switch allegiance!
Class and intellect
Pete Dorey's suggestion that maybe working-class young people do badly at school because of their parents "anti-intellectual mentality" (letter, 5 October) is unkind to many working-class parents who value practical skills, knowledge and problem-solving above the academic skills taught at school.
For them the school curriculum is anti-intellectual, because it does not prepare their children for the world outside, where you have to think on your feet, lead others and get your hands dirty. Why isn't there a GCSE in this?
West Bromwich, West Midlands
Surviving by pure luck
Further to the correspondence on the brace position, I believe the best way to survive a plane crash is to cross your fingers.
Perspectives on the achievements of Steve Jobs
He only refined other people's ideas
"So while the word innovation is overused nowadays, there is no one about whom it can be more aptly deployed than the founder of Apple" (leading article, 7 October). Hogwash. How about Tim Berners-Lee? TBL – unlike Steve Jobs – really did change the world with the world-wide web.
Steve Jobs was a refiner of other people's ideas and nothing more. IBM invented and mass-produced the PC, Bill Gates and Microsoft created the world's most used software, Nokia and others developed the modern mobile phone and the US Defence Department and TBL pioneered, respectively, the internet and the Web, and for better or for worse Google changed the way we search information.
Similarly, Jonathan Ive is the biggest contributor to the aesthetic appeal of Apple products. Yet according to you and others we have Steve Jobs solely to thank for all of the above.
Grumpy but still a god
To scientists like me who battled with the giant IBM mainframe-computers half a century ago, Steve Jobs will be remembered as an obsessive visionary of rare genius.
A media mogul and relentless entrepreneur rather than a techno-geek, he was the first to understand how much the personal computer and its derivatives would change the world. Founding Apple Computers in 1976, he drove the success of such iconic products as Next, Pixar, iMax, iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad – all in the face of severe market scepticism.
He was the model for House (without the TV medic's grace and humility), but in spite of his deplorable behaviour his place in the pantheon of human gods is assured.
Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
Strong leader sadly missed
The untimely death of Steve Jobs is a timely reminder of the importance of strong leadership in successful companies who champion innovation.
In a recent survey we undertook among leading businesses in the UK, Apple was the company over the past decade which was most admired for the effectiveness of its innovation. Steve Jobs' creativity allied to a single-minded consistent vision of designing simple and intuitive products will not be easy to replicate.
He will be sadly missed.
Founding Partner, The Foundation, London W1
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