Letters: Political scramble to revive the NHS

These letters appear in the October 7 edition of The Independent

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“The Independent begins a week-long investigation into the parlous state of the health service’s finances … what’s wrong with the NHS?... what has caused the current crisis?” (6 October ).

What indeed? Many things, but some have not even been considered. I visited my local surgery last week. A large notice in the waiting room said “number of missed appointments in August was 196, equivalent to 51 hours or one week’s wasted time and resources of our practice”. You can find the same notices in hospital outpatients. Theatres stand idle when people do not turn up for routine operations. Translated nationwide, this is many million of pounds worth of loss per month, more per year, more still per decade. Free access costs a great deal and its abuse should not be allowed.

P P Anthony


If the conference season has been marked by one feature, it is the political scramble by all parties to make a raft of baseless promises about NHS funding, after finally realising that the NHS might be important  to people. Labour and Conservative promises were successful in that they got headlines. That they were uncosted (Tories) or poorly costed (Labour) was seemingly less important.

By this logic I’m looking forward to the Lib Dem conference this week. Perhaps we’ll see a promise that all patients will be chauffer-driven to their local surgery at a time of their choosing. This will be followed by post-conference deconstruction, where the promise slinks off to join tuition fees in the graveyard of Lib Dem pledges.

The reality is that unless the wasteful and unnecessary competitive market and PFI contracts are addressed, the NHS will continue to haemorrhage billions and patients will bear the brunt of lost money and poor care. We have a difference between income and expenditure of £6bn a year, which is 5 per cent of overall spending. Given that the introduction of the market has increased administration costs from around 5 per cent to 15 per cent of spending, then it is painfully obvious that we need a move away from the free-market process and back to a public sector planning process.

Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action Party, Worthing


How can your journalists write so many words about the parlous state of NHS finances without mentioning the private finance initiative (PFI)?  The Blair government boasted of the huge sums they spent on the NHS, yet much of it went on this monstrous credit-card style financing, and is widely recognised as a major cause of the current lack of money. The medical profession is sometimes accused of addressing the symptoms not the underlying causes; your analysis of this problem did much the same.

S Lawton
Kirtlington, Oxfordshire


As a consultant paediatrician (forced to retire due to illness), I feel ably qualified to respond to Charlie Cooper’s article in yesterday’s Independent.

I believe the following actions will help to improve our NHS: move specialist clinics to community bases; reduce investigations to the minimum required; reduce the huge amounts of medications; establish online communications between health professionals and trusts. If nothing is done, more professionals will leave their jobs.

Dr Michael Reynolds
Buxton, Derbyshire


We must protect the Human Rights Act

In 1950 the European Convention on Human Rights was drafted. This led directly to the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights. Britain was in the forefront of this development and  eventually 47 countries signed up.

Now the Tory party has published proposals that mean the UK could be the first country to leave. If we – as one of the countries with relatively few judgments handed down against us – find the concept of human rights too onerous to contemplate, where does that leave  many of the other countries, such as Italy for example, which has far more questionable records?   And if the Conservative Party’s plan proceeds and Britain’s exit is emulated by others, where does this leave our citizens who may become subjected to unfair prosecutions in these countries?

The Conservative Party is sending out a chilling message to anyone in Europe who believes in democracy and supports human rights.  Will the last country to leave please switch off the lights on the way out?

Nigel Scott


Whatever one’s opinion about prisoners being denied the right to vote, surely it is wrong to use this topic as a basis for an argument about withdrawing from the European Human Rights Convention. It has been suggested that the European Court rulings on the matter could be complied with by giving the right to vote to prisoners sentenced to one year or less.

It might be debated whether as a country we believe that part of the purpose of imprisonment is to prepare prisoners for reintegration into society as law-abiding and responsible citizens. If we do, why not permit prisoners whose sentence will expire within five years after a general election the right to vote at that election, thereby giving those prisoners some chance to influence the make-up of the government of the society into which they will be released? We might even increase turnouts as a result.

Andrew Bruckland


The Tory contempt that keeps on giving

In the opening lines of the speech she did not get to make at the Tory Conference in Brighton in 1984, Mrs Thatcher refers to the ‘‘mob of rowdies outside’’. This was, of course, a peacefully protesting crowd. Her comments reflect the Tory contempt for democracy and the right to protest, echoed 30 years on by their plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.

Keith Flett


Dear George, Thanks but no thanks

I think I am one of the beneficiaries of George Osborne’s latest pension reforms, having been a member of some good pension schemes during my working life. However, I resent being given such generous welfare benefits in a time of austerity, especially as I do not need them at the moment. 

Nigel Wilkins


How to get people picking fruit

It is a shame that Mark Steel (3 October) should repeat the oft-heard statement that immigrants come here to do work that the British shy away from, with its implicit racist and demeaning undertones, namely immigrants are only good for menial, low-paid jobs. 

Has he considered the option of paying higher wages to fruit pickers, say £15 or even £20 per hour, in which case thousands would flock to Hereford for a stint of fruit picking. I bet an hourly rate of £30 would tempt him to trot to the countryside; it would me.

Fawzi Ibrahim


Madness is... voting without PR

While I respect the intentions of Paul Jenkins in advising everyone to vote (Letter, 3 October), it takes a big effort every four years  for many of us to put that into practice. I have lived in the same constituency for 28 years and have voted in six elections ranging from the high tide of Thatcherism to the Blair landslides. In none of these elections has my vote made an iota of difference.

I live in a safe Tory seat. I never have and never will vote Conservative but I still faithfully make my way to the polling booth, put my cross next to my chosen candidate knowing it will make no difference at all. And, millions of voters around the country in safe seats will be doing the same. I realise campaigners down the years have suffered varying degrees of discomfort to achieve this right but I suspect that most of them were campaigning for real democracy and certainly not so that the trip to the polling booth would be one of utter futility.

One definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result. It has taken me a long time but I am tempted to say that until a system of proportional representation is introduced for West-minster elections, I shall not be indulging in this pointless exercise again.

Stuart Russell


Will Cameron take on Saudi Arabia?

So, David Cameron has done for Alan Henning with his military posing. When will we learn to keep out of interfering in the Middle East? We should immediately cease all aid to Syria and leave the Syrians to sort out their own mess.

Without aid and air strikes, they might realise that it is Isis that is leaving them to suffer, and turn away from it to embrace a more realistic form of government. No amount of compulsion will do that.  Perhaps the only thing we can do is to stop Isis’s backers financing it: which probably involves daring to stand up to Saudi Arabia. Does our tinpot soldier premier dare do that?

Tony Crofts
Clifton, Bristol