Letters: The special needs of the elderly are ignored



These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, Monday 11 March

Special needs of elderly ignored

We applaud Jane Merrick for highlighting the disparity in the treatment of older and younger patients in the health service ("All our elderly need the same fuss the Queen got", 6 March).

It's no surprise that survival rates among older cancer patients are among the worst in Europe. Research during Macmillan's Age Old Excuse campaign shows many cancer services staff receive little or no training on the specific medical needs of older people, such as falls prevention and nutrition.

Hospitals simply aren't designed with older patients in mind. Often, treatment decisions are based on age alone, not an older person's overall fitness.

Recent pilots, set up in England by Macmillan, Age UK and the Department of Health, demonstrate that there are changes commissioners can make which will have a tangible impact on the quality of cancer care for older people. Ensuring we get the basics of care correct creates a platform to enable older people to access the best possible treatment and the best chance of beating their cancer.

The number of older people (65 and over) living with cancer in the UK is set to more than treble by 2040. Unless this issue is tackled now, many thousands of older people will die unnecessarily early from cancer.

Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive, Macmillan Cancer Support, London SE1

I totally agree with the sentiments expressed by your reader Tim Micklesburgh ("Real issues of the old are forgotten", letters, 7 March). The treatment of the elderly purely on the grounds of their age is endemic throughout.

As an example, my 78-year-old father, a retired lawyer, partner in a legal firm for more than 40 years and at present, among other things, chairman of his local community council in the north-west highlands of Scotland, was told by his bank the other day that they could not provide him with a debit card to use in the cardreader they had sent him, which would allow him access to internet banking, on the grounds that he "might use the debit card to overspend". This is a bank he has been with for more than 30 years.

As my father said: "I am allowed to see the sweetie tin but I am not allowed a key in case I eat all the sweeties."

They would not treat a younger person like this. I am assuming that the mindset is that the elderly person will not be around for long and therefore customer service is something they need not give.

Louisa Gardiner, West Linton, Peeblesshire

Danes must pay heavily for their childcare

In your leading article "Time to fix the the broken economics of childcare" (6 March) you highlighted the now high average cost of a full-time nursery place. You then recommend the example of Denmark, where families pay a maximum of 25 per cent of the cost of childcare and the government pays the rest.

Actually, unless a government is printing money (which I'm sure is not something The Independent advocates), the money must be coming out of taxation. In Denmark, typically, the combined local and national standard rate of tax is 45 per cent on incomes over about £4,300. Dividends are taxed at 28 per cent and 42 per cent over about £5,000. The VAT rate is 25 per cent.

In effect, Danes are heavily taxed to provided these childcare benefits. The majority with children and who work are paying high taxes with one hand and getting good benefits back with the other. Childless persons subsidise those receiving childcare benefits.

This is the real debate we need to have: should one group in society, for example, parents, pensioners or carers, be subsidised by other groups, and if so whom? Equally, we can debate whether we should have a high tax/high benefit society.

This is not to say high-income earners shouldn't be taxed, but when benefits are high across most of the population, the majority have to fund the benefits, in one way or another.

The Danes seem a contented people, so maybe they have got it right. On the other hand, I'm not convinced that UK society could deliver high-quality public services in return for high taxation.

Alan Cooper, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Conserving our rich wildlife

Those who call for a closed season for hares would have more credibility if they worked from science rather than prejudice. ("Other animals get a break for being shot at. So why not the hare?", report, 7 March).

The key determinants of hare population levels are changes in agricultural practice and efficient fox control.

Fields with wide margins, beetle banks and hedgerows, such as recommended for shooting, benefit hares. As does the fox control practised on land used for shooting. In effect, there is already a closed season because no one shoots them – except when their numbers make them an agricultural pest – outside the present main season for game.

Introducing a closed season would work against the hare if land managers felt obliged to reduce numbers during the open season to avoid the licensing bureaucracy required for pest control.

Everyone wants to see healthy hare populations, and people who shoot have no interest in seeing their numbers fall. It would be better for hare campaigners to talk and work with the people on the land who value the hare rather than occupy an animal rights trench and frustrate constructive debate and action

Christopher Graffius, Director of Communications, The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Wrexham, Clwyd

The fundamental reason for the deer population explosion is the lack of natural predators. The solution is to introduce wolves back to the UK. They were cruelly hunted to extinction in the Middle Ages.

It would also accord with the Government's attempts to reproduce a medieval socio-economic structure where the few rich and powerful feed from the efforts of the struggling masses.

Peter Evans, Billericay, Essex

A study in the Journal of Wildlife Management recommends shooting about half of the UK's deer population to halt their damage to woodlands and birdlife. How typically anthropocentric.

The deer problem is nothing compared to the devastation of the environment and extinction of species caused by humans. If I were a deer I would have much more than half the human population culled.

David Gibbs, London SW4

Higher education only for wealthy

The UK Government is placing ever greater barriers to those seeking postgraduate qualifications ("Postgraduate studies will be domain of the wealthy", 25 February) at the very time when Chinese cities are competing to attract postgraduates by offering subsidised housing and other benefits.

Tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year leave UK students with debts of up to £27,000 for a bachelor's degree, a further £9,000 for a master's degree and a further £36,000 for a PhD, meaning that a highly qualified professional starts his or her career with debts of up to £72,000 in addition to meeting the living costs of eight years of higher education.

On what basis are those without affluent parents able to conceive of gaining the qualifications that will enable them to contribute to the post-industrial, creative economy that the UK requires in order to compete with emerging countries such as China?

Geoffrey Payne, London W5

I believe Chris Hobbs (letters, 9 March) to be mistaken about immigration security applied to students. A language school in Russia sends teachers of English to England as students of English. Not only are they interviewed in Moscow, but they are also questioned on arrival in London, the second of which precautions seems unnecessary and oppressive.

Cole Davis, Elets, Russia

No lessons learnt about firearms

Thomas Hamilton, who committed the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, had been granted a firearms certificate by local police despite having a totally unsuitable background.

Similarly, Michael Atherton who committed the 2012 New Year's Day massacre in Durham was granted his permit. It looks as if little has been learnt in this area over the past 16 years.

John Kenny, Acle, Norfolk

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