Letters: Perspectives on NHS changes

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The Independent Online

What if it really ain't broke?

Andrew Lansley's letter of 9 June consist of an assertion that "The current system simply doesn't work"', followed by a set of "solutions", which assume that his initial assertion is true.

While there are undoubtedly roughnesses, and all nurses are certainly not angels (although many are) my own empirical evidence acquired by direct experience, though my family and neighbours and by observing other patients over the past two decades, suggests that his assertion – or assumption – is basically not true.

To say the least, this observation gives me cause for concern.

Brian K Roberts, Durham City

Andrew Lansley claims that the Government's reforms of the NHS will improve local accountability. He states that the new clinical consortia (as I assume we must now start calling them since David Cameron's announcement that they won't be made up of just GPs) will be more transparent than the "remote" primary care trusts and strategic health authorities they are replacing.

But at least those bodies are required to hold their board meetings in public, a requirement that does not apply to the new consortia. It is almost certain that these will follow the majority of foundation trusts, which now hold their meetings behind closed doors.

The right of the public to attend meetings where important decisions are taken about how NHS money is spent enshrines the principle of public accountability. The Government proposes to remove that right.

Iain Kitt, Newcastle upon Tyne

Get the basics right first

There are two, and just two, announcements that would prove David Cameron's commitment to the NHS. These are that cleaning and catering would no longer be outsourced.

When these services were outsourced, it was to "help" the NHS focus on the core issues of getting people well. Since then it's become clear that cleanliness and nutrition are core components of this activity, not peripheral items. In some places the food is so poor people in hospital suffer borderline malnutrition. All over the NHS cleaners move between wards, carrying with them pathogens, and often being in the wrong place when they are needed (people don't bleed, vomit and excrete to a timetable).

Fix these two things first, and talk to us about the rest when they're done.

Xavier Gallagher, Antwerp, Belgium

Feminism and short skirts

Christina Patterson's article on gender and this "new feminism" was spot on. It's so refreshing to get this perspective from a woman, on the hypocrisy of demanding respect and equality through increased self-sexualisation. It seems to be easy to dismiss that opinion when it comes from a man.

Henry St Leger-Davey, Winchester

Where can I go to see these very, very short skirts and tops that Christina Patterson writes about? The default dress code for women in my neck of the woods is trousers in various forms, usually jeans – items that used to be regarded as menswear.

Christopher Tiller, London SW16

It is puzzling how often the media focuses on what Muslim women wear and rarely on what Muslim men wear.

In her article "Sex, and the feminist's new clothes" (8 June), Christina Patterson refers to a verse of Quran, which Muslims believe was revealed by Allah to his prophet Muhammad: "And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands." (Quran 24:31).

However, this verse is immediately preceded by the following: "Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do." (24:30).

Islam promotes modesty for both: men and women. Yes, there is a difference in how this modesty is achieved. While Muslim women are requested to "draw their veils over their bosoms", Muslim men are requested to dress in loose clothes that cover at least between the navel and the knees. This is a far cry from "If you were a man, you could wear whatever the hell you liked," quoting Christina Patterson.

As a Muslim woman who adheres to wearing modest clothes, I find it liberating to be judged by my intellect rather than by the length of my skirt, and to be able to interact professionally with men in my job without unwanted attention.

Dr Mariam Faris, Brighton

Hacking: wider inquiry mooted

It is misleading to suggest that allegations concerning the actions of private investigators that have appeared in the media are not being properly considered by the Metropolitan Police Service ("The untold story of hacking", 9 June).

As Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers suggested in her letter of 17 May to Mr Tom Watson MP, these and other new allegations do, in fact, sit outside the terms of reference for Operation Weeting, which, as you are aware, is specifically investigating unlawful access to voice mailboxes.

However, officers from within the Specialist Crime Directorate have been conducting a formal assessment process of the considerable information in their possession, to assess whether the available evidence would support further criminal investigations. As in other cases, this ongoing process will, in due course, involve consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service and will result in a formal decision as to whether new criminal investigations will be commenced.

Cressida Dick, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service, New Scotland Yard, London SW1

Archbishop is left's only voice

How refreshing to hear the comments about this Coalition Government from the Archbishop of Canterbury. The facts are as he points out: two parties' manifestos, Conservative and Liberal Democrat were rejected at the election, so in some backroom somewhere a third manifesto was concocted ,and foisted upon us.

Did the Electorate have a say in this? Of course not.

Then there are the planned cuts to welfare benefit payments. We all know in our hearts that there is a nucleus of people who for whatever reasons (and there are many) are unemployable. What are the Coalition plans? Hope they starve, die or disappear?

The Archbishop has a Christian duty to speak out and defend those who are defenceless. What a great shame we have no great orator on the left of British politics. Twelve months ago the Labour Party said it was starting again "with a blank sheet of paper". It's about time they put something on this sheet. It's coming to something when an archbishop and member of the House of Lords is worth listening to from the left.

John Humphreys, Milton Keynes

Victorian way to serve the public

Hamish McRae in his article "We must nurture the not-for-profit sector" (8 June), omits one class of organisation that is now almost defunct but which in former times played a major role in the provision of services to the public. This was the Victorian "statutory company".

These bodies, established as the name implies under individual statute, were in the main concerned with the supply of essentials such as water, gas or electricity to a specific area. Their key feature was that although they were profit-making, their profits were capped by law at 5 per cent.

Nobody therefore was going to get rich quick by investing in a statutory company, but in a time when a safe and steady dividend income rather than ballooning price growth was regarded by many as a good reason for share ownership, they had their attractions. What must have appealed to the Victorian mind was the combination of worthy causes, respectable institutions and a reasonable return on investment.

To the best of my knowledge, there are still a few statutory companies around that have not been absorbed into larger enterprises.

In today's climate, it may be worth revisiting statutory companies as an additional option for the provision of services such as, to quote the issue of the moment, care homes. As compared with not-for-profits, they have the advantage of being more likely to attract investment capital, while the "statutory" element implies an intrinsic degree of regulation, particularly as regards business practices, that is absent in the normal private sector.

Michael Crawshaw, Paphos, Cyprus

I was surprised to read in Hamish McRae's article that the London School of Economics "was founded by the Fabians in 1985". I wonder where the friends who claimed that they went to the LSE in the 1960s were. Down the pub for three years, I imagine. Typical students!

Jan Cook, South Nutfield, Surrey

Israel doesn't need Assad

I disagree with the analysis of Adrian Hamilton in his short piece on Syria and Assad ("Who is on Assad's side now?" 9 June). He imagines only Israel as President Assad's supporter, needing Syria as a cowed source of stability on its border, and as a bogeyman. Hardly.

The only stable borders that Israel has are those with Jordan and Egypt. While the peace Israel has with those two countries is a cold one, it does exist and it came out of peace treaties at different times. Syria has offered nothing but instability to Israel and has offered no peace. The Assad dynasty has destabilised Lebanon unceasingly and it arms and encourages Hezbollah.

As for bogeymen, it is not only Israel that believes the regime in Syria is deflecting attention from its internal crises by causing mayhem on the northern Israeli border. In the last few days, several inhabitants of Yarmouk near Damascus have been killed while protesting that Palestinian lives were being sacrificed by the encouragement of demonstrations at the Golan Heights. This incident came about after several deaths on the Golani border after infiltrators detonated mines in the area.

Graeme D Eddie, Dunbar, East Lothian

Robert Fisk's and Loveday Morris's articles of 7 June state that Israel was not willing to enter negotiations with the Palestinians because they were divided. That is not so.

The policy of both the Olmert and Netanyahu governments, after the collapse of the first Palestinian unity government in mid-2007, was to pursue direct negotiations with the Palestinian faction led by President Mahmoud Abbas. The government of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert negotiated directly with the Palestinians for nearly a year under the Annapolis Process in 2008.

The current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called repeatedly for Abbas to enter direct talks with him after replacing Olmert in 2009. A negotiation process in fact began with direct talks in Washington in September 2010, but was broken off by the Palestinian side over the issue of settlement construction. Netanyahu's response to the recent Palestinian unity agreement was that Israel cannot negotiate with a government which includes Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction.

Hamas has refused to accept the Quartet's conditions for engagement, which are renunciation of violence, acceptance of previous agreements, and recognition of Israel's right to exist.

Toby Greene, Modi'in, Israel

Errors are part of the exam

An unanswerable question in an exam ("Catch questions", 9 June) is truly part of a real test for a candidate. If you know the subject well enough then a question with insufficient information or referring to a mislabelled diagram can be easily answered, by pointing that out, answering that portion that can be answered and moving on. When I took my exams (O-levels) the first question afterwards from our teacher was invariably to ask whether we had spotted any mistakes in the paper.

Exams are intended to test readiness for the real world, which is full of mistakes. Learn to spot them and you will be well prepared.

Greg Hethersett, Littlehampton, West Sussex

Your editorial of 9 June on exam errors, while offering good advice to candidates, was very kind to the exam boards responsible. As a former exam board member I would view such errors as inexcusable.

Exam papers containing answers which have to be worked out should be reviewed by at least two independent subject experts, who must agree, without consulting each other or the authors of the paper, on what the correct answers are. If they don't agree, the question needs to be rewritten or scrapped.

Michael Bailey, Uki, New South Wales, Australia

No 'right' to have a baby

I was most disappointed in your sensationalist headline and cover story "The baby lottery" (7 June). The reason I buy your paper is because I want intelligent reporting of issues, not a cheap shot at the Government (via the NHS) for trying to save money through restricting IVF services.

The idea that everyone has a "right" to have a child and furthermore to have fertility treatment provided by the taxpayer is ridiculous, particularly in on overpopulated planet where scarcity of resources is becoming catastrophic for almost a billion of the 7 billion humans inhabiting this tiny, fragile, finite earth.

Germaine Greer once said that "while childlessness may well be a disappointment, it is not an illness". I would go so far as to say that even if it is an illness, it is not one that is detrimental to humankind – in fact, quite the opposite. The NHS would be well advised to further restrict the service and use the money for less self-indulgent and more worthwhile medical purposes.

Katherine Scholfield, Roborough, Devon

Island racked with hatreds

In his attack on racism, Robin Spreckley (letter, 9 June ) says we shouldn't give bigots a platform, and then highlights the "minority of white Scottish and Welsh individuals who spout similar bile about white English people".

As a Scot, I should warn him that a far larger and more influential minority of white English people regularly "spout bile"' about those living north of the Wall, and Fleet Street and the mainstream broadcasters are more than happy to give them a very well-paid platform.

Whether its journalists, commentators or any number of Tory backwoodsmen in both houses of Parliament, we Scots are regularly branded ill-educated, poorly fed, alcoholic subsidy junkies.

What they – and we – say about the Welsh, isn't fit for a family paper.

Norry Wilson, Glasgow

New battle line of the class war

Following the wise letter about social class (8 June), some of your readers may be unaware of the new class test.

Lower/working class: pro-Diana, sorry for a young girl in love whose husband's mistress was at their wedding, and badly treated by the Windsor family. Did so much to make Aids accepted by her physical contact with patients.

Upper-class and Tory: Diana was a silly, hysterical little airhead. Charles looks so happy with Camilla. (This delivered loudly and authoritatively.)

The division will become clearer when and if it is announced that Camilla is to become Queen.

Sally Parrott, Cranleigh, Surrey

Mad cyclist

Surely only Julie Burchill can twist a story about a paranoid schizophrenic who killed a Brighton shopkeeper into an attack upon cyclists (9 June.) While I love The Independent for the wide variety of views expressed by its columnists and I am sure she is employed to be deliberately controversial, this time Miss Burchill goes too far.

Alan Lewendon, Fordingbridge, Hampshire


I wish I had created the word "amazing" and had a copyright on it. On the evidence of Britain's Got Talent alone, where Michael McIntyre used it three times in one sentence last Saturday and every contestant used it to describe how they felt about being in the final, I would be very rich. It appears to be the only adjective people use these days. Which is not "amazing" but very lazy.

Terry Maunder, Leeds