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Letters: The NHS can’t be run like PC World

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 29 July, 2013

Sir Bruce Keogh’s remarks suggesting that PC World is a model for the NHS (report, 29 July) are bizarre.

The extraordinary but true doubling of performance-for-price every two years of much electronic equipment, usually known as Moore’s Law, comes from R&D and investment within the electronics industry (in which I spent my career). This has nothing whatsoever to do with the retailers, and has no relevance to running the NHS.

It is important to distinguish between what the private sector does well and what the public sector does better: all the objective evidence says that running healthcare efficiently is one of the latter. The private sector can supply equipment efficiently to the NHS, but has nothing to offer in the running of the NHS except increased costs.

R J brewer, Lambourn,  Berkshire


Your editorial “NHS primary care still stuck in an earlier age” (24 July) highlights well the confusion with regard to the range of alternatives and lack of remedies on offer for unscheduled care. What the politicians don’t seem to grasp is that A&E IS primary care (with the added facility to care for true “emergencies”).

What people demand, and we are duty-bound to provide,  is a “one-stop” shop (modelled after supermarkets) where the lights are indeed on 24/7. Our local emergency department should not just be a safety net and dumping ground for “failed service provision” but rather be empowered to hold all those other services to task for their failures.

The failure of recruitment to emergency medicine isn’t just a manifestation of the relatively poor pay compared to their counterparts; but more importantly the sense of helplessness and frustration of senior emergency clinicians to influence the rest of the system.

Naeem Toosy, Oxshott, Surrey


Hello GP charges, goodbye NHS “free at the point of use”. Dental charges came by sleight of hand. How many poorer families stopped going?

Your recent articles foretell the privatisation of the NHS.

Was there a public vote for the ending of free healthcare? Does the Government have a mandate for this?

Charles Becker, Plymouth


Sir Bruce Keogh thinks the NHS should be run like PC World. Would this be the same PC World in which I was unable to make a purchase a few weeks ago because their tills were “down”? I think we should be told.

Eddie Doherty, Wolverhampton


Our Christian God is up to his neck in politics

In insisting that “The Church should keep to matters spiritual” you demonstrate an impeccable pedigree. That’s just what the Nazi leaders said to Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he cried Nein! to the inhumanity of Third Reich, and what the white supremacists said to Martin Luther King when he protested against systemic racism: “Your job is souls, our job is bodies.”

Without doubt the church’s interventions in public policy can be not only misguided but also seriously hypocritical and sometimes quite repugnant (the anti-gay lobby being a salient contemporary example). But the privatisation of faith – the perennial default position of the establishment – is an ideology that Christians can never accept without abandoning the God in whom they have faith, a God who is up to his neck in politics, whose prophets have always spoken truth to power – and often suffered for it.

Revd Kim Fabricius, Swansea


The Church of England has got into some difficulty by, on the one hand, wanting to close down wonga, and on the other hand having indirectly and inadvertently invested in it.

It is easy to see how this state of affairs has come to exist. While the Archbishop would like a certain policy to be followed, trustees of the fund in question are required to be “ethically blind”, to make investments solely on the basis of maximising the return to their beneficiaries. This was established by the court case of Cowan vs Scargill (1985).

Could the Church of England perhaps fund a member of the church to take the trustees to court over this issue, and perchance set new case law to supercede that laid down in Cowan vs Scargill? I have heard reports that there might be a case for the law to be reviewed on the basis that the mineworkers were not properly represented in the original case.

My interest in this and rather patchy knowledge was gained while investigating why a proportion of the council tax that I pay was being invested in arms manufacturers, including Halliburton, by Dorset County pension fund, and perhaps  the majority of pension funds  in the country.

I hope that I would prefer to starve to death than to have my pension provided on the back of arms exports, but I have not had to make that choice – yet.

David Partridge, Bridport


After recognising Justin Welby’s considerable expertise and concern for the poor, you somehow conclude that the Church should confine itself to “spiritual” matters.

The Church is already a major player in providing social support to the poor and disadvantaged. Thousands of Christians work daily in food banks, debt and relationship counselling, and programmes for youth in our inner cities because of their practical love  for people.   

Yes, the Church is a minority institution, but I was under the impression that in Britain anyone is entitled to contribute to public debate and to attempt to improve things for the better. Presumably including Justin Welby. Do you seriously want to put him in a religious box and slam the lid? Is it only secularists who are entitled to express a view and take action?

Geoff Larcombe, West Wickham,  Greater London


When the Archbishop of Canterbury appears before his final Judge he will not, I imagine, expect to be questioned about “spirituality”, but rather what he has done about feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger.

Fr Ephrem Lash, London N7

UK arms trade’s mixed messages

I commend The Independent and Kim Sengupta for the article “British arms sales: a step  towards transparency, but many more are needed” (18 July),  but was surprised that it failed  to mention the Arms Trade Treaty which was adopted at the UN earlier this year.

The UK has been a strong champion of the Arms Trade Treaty and demonstrated this by taking the first available opportunity to sign the Treaty on 3 June 2013. At the heart of this Treaty is the obligation to refuse export licences where there is clear risk that the transfer could facilitate human-rights violations. How can the UK Government reconcile this progressive stance on the world stage with the huge quantity of export licences it is authorising to countries the UK itself has dubbed “of human rights concern”?

Before ratifying the Treaty later this year and revelling in the associated kudos, the UK needs to put its money where its mouth is and ensure its export policies are fully aligned with the Arms Trade Treaty, as well as with existing UK and EU legislation. The mixed message the UK is currently sending out risks damaging the prospects of the Treaty before it enters into force and raises serious questions about the UK’s professed commitment to implement the Treaty to a high standard.

Ben Donaldson, Communications and Campaigns Officer  United Nations Association – UK , London SW1

Surveillance – not always a bad thing

I have a slightly different view of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) from the residents of Royston (report, 24 July). My neighbour is in his late 80s, lives alone and has no children. Recently his niece knocked on our door. For two days she had left voice messages on his answer phone and she had now driven round to his house to find the curtains drawn and no response. She called the police who decided he could have gone out. ANPR recorded his car travelling towards the coast at 9.30am that morning. The niece said that he would be going to visit another family member at which she was greatly relieved and further missing-person enquiries were avoided.

Vaughan Clarke, Colchester, Essex


Name that airport – with a little flair

The Italians often name their airports after famous countrymen: Marco Polo Airport, Venice; Leonardo da Vinci Airport, Rome, Galileo Galilei Airport, Pisa. The few British examples of this are not particularly inspiring: George Best Airport Belfast, John Lennon Airport Liverpool and one named for a fictional character, Robin Hood Airport, at Doncaster. Given the wealth of heroes in our history, is this the best we can do? I should be happy to see Bristol Airport renamed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel Airport.

S Garrett, East Lydford,  Somerset


The mindset of a sporting champ

Drawing on his own experience of 2005 and, in particular, of his struggle to deal with Andrew Flintoff, Adam Gilchrist (25 July) articulates support for my long-held view that of the two attributes necessary to succeed at sport, though talent is a prerequisite, it is the suitability of an athlete’s mindset – his or her mental toughness – that affords that talent’s desirable expression.

Dr Michael Sheard, Yarm, North Yorkshire


When it’s best to do nothing

Dr Alex May’s letter “When doing nothing is best” (26 July) reminded me of the appropriateness of a text whose date of writing is seldom accurately guessed:

“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganised – I was to learn late in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation”.

The writer: Petronius Arbiter  in 210 BC. What hope, therefore, for change? 

Patricia Stewart, Little Baddow, Essex


Send in the clown

With Queen Elizabeth’s crown on display in an exhibition at Buckingham Palace, I feel Inspector Clouseau should be on hand to advise their security team now that a leading member of the “Pink Panther” gang of international jewel thieves has escaped from a Swiss jail (report, 27 July).

Ivor Yeloff, Norwich