Letters: Stop this pernicious NHS-bashing

These letters appear in the 10 September issue of The Independent

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As an NHS doctor I have been greatly upset by the events surrounding the removal of Ashya King from Southampton general hospital, and the automatic and general assumption made by the media and the public in the early stages of the story that his parents were probably right to rescue their little boy from the clutches of an inadequate and uncaring NHS.

I qualified as a doctor in 2008 and worked for two years in the NHS before spending the next three years serving in the army. When I returned to the NHS last year I was astonished to find how low staff morale had sunk in my few years away.

Over the course of the past few months, my own morale has dipped to match that of my colleagues as I have more keenly felt the relentless onslaught of criticism that doctors, nurses, and other health professionals suffer from the media, politicians and medical-litigation industry.

The current exodus from general practice is a direct result of this: at a time when the government is trying to increase the number of GPs, one in three is retiring early, one in seven is leaving the country, and recruitment into general practice this year has fallen 15 per cent where previously it was rising.

The NHS is an easy target for the media and politicians, and those looking to criticise it can find any number of outlets. But trying to defend it feels like screaming into a vacuum. I cannot pretend that the NHS is a perfect system but there are good news stories out there that get very little, if any, coverage. For example, just this year the Commonwealth Fund rated the NHS as the best healthcare system in the world when compared to 10 other Western countries including the US, Canada and a handful of Scandinavian and northern European countries. This was widely reported in the US, which came last in the rankings, but did not seem to warrant a mention here in the UK.

I passionately believe that universal healthcare, free at the point of delivery, sets us above so many other countries and we should  be proud of this system rather than constantly denigrating it.

The NHS always has, and always will, rely on the goodwill of the people who work within it, the goodwill to go the extra mile, to work the extra hours and to work outside the exact terms of a job description, but I worry that the goodwill is running out as morale slumps.

The occasional pat on the back would go a long way towards remedying this and preventing the widespread apathy and dejection that could lead to the inexorable decline of the NHS.

Dr Adam Staten

New Malden, Surrey


I have much to thank Southampton hospital trust for, particularly the dedication they showed to our grandson, two weeks old at the time, and desperately ill. We didn’t see any arrogant doctors there – just a team of professionals dedicated to getting him better, which they did. But of course the media don’t seem interested in good-news stories when it comes to the NHS.

Mike Willson

Southwick, East Sussex


Two nations with different visions

When Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says she would like the British “nation” to stay as one (8 September) she surely means she would like the “state” to stay as one. A state is a politically organised area over which a central authority has jurisdiction. A nation is a group of people who think of themselves as being held together by a shared culture and common values.

The UK state contains at least three nations. Such a situation would not normally threaten the cohesion of the state. The danger arises when the values of any particular national group differ markedly from those of the state. This appears to be what is happening in the UK now, with the Scottish nation having a vision of a just society that is increasingly divergent from what Alibhai-Brown refers to as the “manic and ruthless Anglo-Saxon model”. In such a situation, centrifugal forces gather strength and the danger of political fragmentation arises.

That is what the Scottish referendum is all about; a nation with a set of ideals and values that have become radically different from those of the centralised state.

Clive Wilkinson

Morpeth, Northumberland


Your editorial (8 September) says that the No campaign has traded in fear. Not me. I have been debating in public with nationalists since November 2012, launched the Aberdeen Better Together campaign, introduced Gordon Brown when he spoke to a packed house in Aberdeen at the end of June, and opposed Elaine C Smith on BBC Any Questions? in Melrose at the end of August.

My line has been to accentuate the positive, an easy one to deliver from personal experience as a medical scientist and a regular TV and radio interviewee, because the British science system is far more successful than any other (except the US which spends far more), because the BBC is by far the best broadcasting system in the world, and most important of all, because Scottish involvement in both, from their foundation to today, has been, and is, integral to their success.

Hugh Pennington



I’m not sure that all of those who will be voting Yes are confident of “a glorious future” as your editorial,  has it. However it will  be our mess, and not an Eton mess.

Joan Hoggan



The main argument of the No campaign is that people should vote out of economic self-interest. Their slogan might well have been “Better-off together”.

But, even if Scots could be persuaded that they might be “better off” staying in the UK, for many this would still not determine their vote.

Some people choose self-employment, with its attendant financial risks, rather that work for a boss or a company they don’t like. People take early retirement, go part-time, move to lesser paid jobs etc – all to improve their quality of life, knowing they will not be better off financially. The No campaign seems  to regard the voters as wholly materialistic. But many are not.

John Boaler

Calne, Wiltshire


It seems odd that the Yes campaign do not want to be governed by Whitehall but are happy to be governed from Brussels.

T Sayer



Scotland has long since ceased to be remotely Tory and the Conservatives in power might well see it as more of a liability to them than as an asset to the nation. David Cameron is perhaps not as dumb as he looks. The Conservatives would surely prefer to remain in power at the helm of a smaller union than to lose everything for a decade or more next year.

Alex Salmond may have the reputation for being sly, but it could be Cameron who’s pulling the fast one.

Paul Dunwell



There has been a feverish scramble by Westminster to ensure that Scotland remains in the union, but I have had no contact from my MP asking for my views.

I could, however, give him many clear answers: my son, as an English student, will leave university with around £30,000-worth of debt; I have a chronically ill relative who relies on repeat prescriptions at an extortionate regular cost; and we have an elderly relative who has now sadly used up most of her life savings to enjoy a decent level of care in the community. In Scotland all of these aspects are free and are funded by UK revenue, largely down to the taxes paid by the English who represent well over 93 per cent of the UK population. 

I welcome Scottish independence because it will mean that I no longer have to subsidise Scotland through the outdated Barnett formula. The Government is bending over backwards to please Scotland... but not on my behalf. Who speaks up for the honest, law-abiding English taxpayer?

Trevor Freeman

Lowestoft, Suffolk


It now seems possible that Scotland will become independent and that the country I was born in and which has always been my home will cease to exist.

That this is even possible should be a source of consuming shame to politicians in both major Westminster parties: the Tories because they have driven Scotland to this by running Britain for the exclusive benefit of a small number of extremely rich people; and the Labour Party for failing to offer even a faint hope of anything better.

John Harries



Perfect baby coverage

I’ve read The Independent since it was first published in 1986, and if ever I needed a reason to continue reading it (which I don’t), that reason can be found on page 16 of the paper of 9 September. Four lines of type under the headline “Monarchy; second royal baby expected”. Perfect.  A news report without any of the gushing, fawning, or sycophantic drivel that we can expect from the other papers on a daily basis,  ad infinitum.

And judging by the Letters page of the same edition, I’m not the only person who feels like this.

Peter Henderson

Worthing, West Sussex