Letters: NHS top-ups

NHS top-ups will penalise the poor and the old
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The Independent Online

The Government's U-turn on top-up payments is a sad day for the NHS. Allowing private payments alongside NHS care is another nail in the coffin of the universal healthcare. The Government now appears to be suggesting that it is not only acceptable to privatise NHS delivery, but also NHS funding.

Patient charges undermine the core principles of the NHS, and a system that allowed top-up payments would be regressive, in that it would penalise the poor, the sick and the old – the most frequent users of the NHS. I believe that over time a system of co-payments could reduce the NHS to providing basic services only, with the more elaborate or expensive treatments requiring top-ups and, therefore, only available to the wealthy.

Such a system would perpetuate inequalities by devolving financial risk to individuals, leaving them to meet the often catastrophic risks of care themselves. The private sector likes the idea of co-payments because they can generate additional income and profits, but in a public system they would carry high administrative costs and generate major barriers to access.

There are no guidelines to questions such as what to do if a treatment is working but a patient runs out of money or who picks up the bill for treating the side-effects of treatment. There is a lot of research in this area, much of it carried out by the Government, and new policies should not be departing so far from evidence-based policy, or from the core principles of the NHS.

Dr Kailash Chand

Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater manchester

Bunglers in control of our money

So, who is the most feckless?

Is it the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, who believe they can ignore their 2 per cent inflation target and use a dramatic interest rate cut to reinflate asset prices? I recall the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Anthony Barber trying something similar after the secondary banking crisis in 1973-4. It resulted in 26.9 per cent inflation in 1976 and, now that the banks have been recapitalised, it is only too likely to happen again. The MPC is guilty of a political act and should be fired en masse immediately.

Is it the Government, who think that savers will be happy to take a minus 2 per cent real interest rates (RPI is currently 5 per cent) and subsidise the ignorant who have over-borrowed? Sorry, Gordon Brown, we pensioners have had enough of your tricks of taxing the virtuous and we won't put up with such knavery any longer.

Is it us, the voting public, for putting up with supercilious bungling "leaders" who clearly are leading us nowhere but further into the mire? Forget all the PR coming out of Downing Street; they are clearly out of their depth.

John Tierney

Reigate Surrey

"Brown calls for homeowners to benefit as interest rates are slashed," your cover line states (7 November). It's hardly helpful to those careful elderly homeowners with no mortgages but who rely on interest to make their lives more comfortable. Oh well, perhaps we'll all be dead by the time of the next election, so we can be discounted.

Olga de Corral

London W2

It's truly shocking that the Bank of England has slashed interests rates, presaging a fall in the rates paid to savers by the high-street banks. At a time when these banks are questionably solvent, surely savers investing their money in these dodgy enterprises should receive an increased interest rate reflecting the risk involved? Or does capitalism no longer work like that in Mr Brown's Britain?

John Eoin Douglas


The dramatic interest rate cut is good news for borrowers but not savers. Given the current 5.2 per cent inflation rate, many savers will now struggle to get a return that maintains the value of their savings. Against this background, why are we expected to pay tax on returns below the rate of inflation? Not all savers will have all their cash in ISAs and will therefore be paying tax on non-existent gains.

Robin White

Oakley, Hampshire

The reduction of interest rates by 1.5 percentage points is clearly too much in one go and smacks of panic. When the recession is in full swing, 12 to 18 months from now, the rate will have to be further reduced, but the MPC has neatly limited its future options. Unfortunately, the situation arose because bankers incorrectly forecast their future options.

Simon Allen

Watford, Hertfordshire

I see that some banks are failing to pass on to borrowers the full 1.5 percentage point rate cut. May I be the first to blame Barack Obama? What a disappointment he has proven to be.

Mark Redhead


Stalinist attack on blogs by Blears

With regard to blogs, what Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, is really suggesting is that we should fashion free speech around the sensitivities of the Government and give them the power to stifle criticism (The Big Question, 6 November). Has she been to China lately? I'm sure the Chinese regime would be extremely impressed with such progressive thinking.

It is this government, not the blogs, that have produced a "culture of despair", bombarding us with lies, subterfuge and the kind of cynical doublethink under which Blears can declare that free-flowing online opinion is "undermining democracy".

It is this government that is closing down democracy, spreading fear and subverting our liberties daily. This latest attack on blogs shows its true Stalinist colours beautifully. What next? State re-education?

While watching the US election, I was struck by the political chasm separating a straight-talking, fresh-faced, dignified statesman such as Barack Obama and our own sneering band of illiberal, prying, spying, tiny-minded bureaucrats, whose only currency is fear and suspicion.

Adam Burns


Henry's slaughter of the Welsh

The killing of prisoners at Agincourt was almost certainly a military decision taken in the heat of battle. Henry V and his noble warriors were themselves of French descent and fought by the same code of chivalry as their opponents. But his slaughter of Welsh prisoners at Grosmont may have been a deliberate tactic (letter 7 November).

In his Description of Wales, written in the 12th century, Gerald of Wales advised those who wished to defeat the Welsh that they should not use the methods that French troops used in their own country; they should rather adopt the practices of the Marcher Lords, who had adapted themselves to Welsh conditions: "They [the French] are used to fighting on the level whereas here the terrain is rough; with them the army is an honourable profession but with us it is a matter of dire necessity; they take prisoners, we cut off their heads; they ransom their captives but we massacre them."

John E Orton


Do we deserve this sacrifice?

A treasured remembrance of my father is his return half of a leave rail ticket third-class from Wallsend to Le Havre (excluding London Tube) while serving his country as a sapper on the Western Front in 1916. Born in 1875, he would have been approaching 41 and obviously a volunteer.

Father, a former miner, survived the war only to be put on the scrapheap, along with his family, right through the hungry Twenties and Thirties until the Second World War, when he again rallied to the aid of his country by going back down the mines at the advanced age of 65. He eventually retired in his seventies, dying in 1962.

Does our nation deserve such blind loyalty or Poppy Day make amends?

Norman Wall

Wallsend, Tyne & Wear

The US has voted for common sense

The American people decided that we need a guy who finished school at the top of the class as opposed to the bottom. We want a VP who is smart and competent and knows how everything works, and, more importantly, can fill the top job if necessary. We did not want a cute and sassy VP who barely graduated and has no experience in domestic or world affairs.

It still amazes me that the snake handlers in our society who get nothing from their candidate are their base of support. The US has a hurdle to leap and that is to return our great nation to its secular beginnings and repudiate those without tolerance or common sense. Citizens who don't even know who is on their side want to drag us back to the Middle Ages. God bless America.

Norm Grudman

Delray Beach, Florida, USA

According to the Scottish Herald, Professor Tom Devine has courted Scottish wrath by suggesting that many Scots subscribe to the "Burns Supper School of Scottish history, which celebrates the ideas, inventions, deeds and personalities of historic figures without any criticism". Then the BBC reports that Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, opined on Barack Obama's Scottish ancestry: "So it seems there's another Scot in the White House and that must be a good thing."

Caledonian credit-claiming is boundless. Mr Salmond will have to erect a statue of President Obama in the latter's ancestral Scottish home, wherever it is, and twin it with his birthplace, Kapi'olani in Hawaii.

Go on, Alex, get in first!

Let's hope statues are subsidised by the Barnett formula, otherwise the idea will disappear as quickly as Scotch mist.

Stephen Gash


How wonderful that Barack Obama and John McCain both claim "Our country first! God Bless America!" We in Britain have instead "Member of the Order of the British Empire!" (how long ago was that?) and "God save the Queen".

Our national anthem must be the only one in the world that does not mention with pride its country rather than a person. Yet that seems the only thing British people hang on to. Is this an inferiority complex? It is time to grow up.

Marianne Harrison

Eyemouth, Scottish Borders

After the outpouring of optimism among Barack Obama's followers in the US, how long before we see more sceptical Brits on our streets wearing "No We Can't" T-shirts?

Barry Nelson

Darlington, Co Durham

Brand awareness

Vis-à-vis Brand and Ross: "The art of public life consists to a great extent of knowing exactly where to stop, and going a bit further," said Saki (H H Munro) some 90 years ago.

Joseph Mattey

London W1

By-election losers

It is worth noting that while the turnout at the Glenrothes by-election was only slightly down on the general election, the Labour candidate's votes actually increased. Although they were very disappointed, the Scottish Nationalists increased their vote by 50 per cent. The real losers were the Liberal Democrats, whose vote was down by almost 80 per cent, and the Conservatives, who only polled half of their general election vote. Both lost their deposits. This must be of great concern to David Cameron if he is hoping to have Scottish Conservative MPs after the next general election.

Ted Frith

Selsdon, Surrey

Flag flak

On 7 November, you featured a graphic illustrating a hands-across-the-Atlantic theme. Unfortunately, this rather nice illustration has a Union Flag, supposedly draped over the islands of the United Kingdom, which has somehow been allowed to also cover the free and fair land called the Irish Republic. Did you borrow the artist from the Daily Telegraph?

Shane McElhatton


Gay blood donors

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service has rejected calls to lift the ban on gay men donating. The organisation said that the prevalence of HIV is rising in gay men and donor selection is the only way to keep blood products "safe". According to the National Aids Trust, while HIV is rising in gay men, the number of heterosexual carriers is not only rising but outnumbers gay carriers by 12 per cent. Why is this archaic generalisation still allowed to carry on? Other countries have woken up to the fact, so why can't the UK?

Andrew Brentnall


Rainbow nation

Brian Rushton oversimplifies the categorisation of races in apartheid South Africa (letter, 7 November). Anyone with a non-white ancestor was referred to as black (officially using the tribe to which they belonged), coloured (or mixed race), or Indian. Oddly the Japanese were regarded as "honorary" whites, whereas the Chinese were not.

Stephen Clifton