Letters: They would support Nicholson, wouldn't they?


These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, Thursday 7 March

“They would, wouldn’t they?”  is the obvious response on reading that four former Health Ministers back Sir David Nicholson (“Should he stay or should he go?” 5 March). 

He got to the top by scoring well on the box-ticking which they imposed on the NHS. The deaths at Mid Staffordshire Hospital occurred in his chain of command. In many organisations, disasters on that scale would lead to a prompt and honourable resignation as a matter of course. The chief departing would at last show that the top of the Civil Service is not totally a blame-free zone.

However, he might not go without a public fight which former ministers would not welcome in case it emerged that they had omitted, among all their plethora of performance indicators, any that lost points for allowing people to die unnecessarily. 

John Kennett

South Warnborough, Hampshire


Sir David Nicholson blithely claims that his history of presiding over a disgraceful waste of life makes him the best person to ensure that the NHS does not replicate the mistakes seen in Staffordshire.

“I put my hands up to that and I was a part of that, but my learning from that was to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he says. I don’t know whether we should be more worried about him, about those who appointed him or about the level of competition if Sir David is truly the best that the NHS thought they could hire.

Paul Dunwell

Alton, Hampshire


The National Health Service should be run by an individual of honour and integrity. An individual of honour and integrity would have resigned on publication of the Francis Report.

Paul Rex

Hook, Hampshire


I watched with dismay as the politicians, particularly Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, destroyed the core value of compassionate care for the individual patient in the NHS.

The politicians have got off lightly. The nurses and managers, local and central, have been pilloried because they were held responsible after the Mid Staffordshire inquiry for the tragic results of an erosion of empathy. This was caused  by the relentless pressure of their work, engendered by the political drive to abolish waiting lists and waiting times at all costs, and to remove doctors and nurses from setting the agenda for patient care. The hospitals were merely implementing the politically driven targets that started with Mrs Thatcher and were driven on by the messianic Mr Blair.

Care requires empathy, and empathy needs time and continuity between nurse/doctor and patient. Time shrivelled with targets; nurses were replaced with healthcare assistants who had virtually no training. Why should nurses and managers bear all the public’s vitriol?

Peter Baird

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon (retired)

Radnage, Buckinghamshire


A further attraction of Wales (“Ever wondered about moving to Wales?”, 25 February) is that it has retained the pre-2003 system of patient and public involvement in health. Hence little risk of being exposed to what happened in Mid Staffordshire.

Donald ROY

London SW15


Catholic schools get away with discrimination

So, the atheist Nick Clegg can get his kids into a Catholic school? How so? When I wanted my children to go to a Catholic school, because the local secular school was the worst in the country, they said no, because I am an atheist (and my wife a lapsed Catholic). Only Catholics were allowed in this school – even though the school was funded by the state.

Why are Catholic schools able to discriminate like this? All children must go to their local school, and schools cannot discriminate – unless they are Catholic schools. Then, it seems, they can discriminate as much as they like – and bus pupils in from over 25 kilometres away.

Roger Ellis

Northwich, Cheshire


I would like to comfort AC Grayling (“Ancient ignorance has no place in education”, 21 February). I agree with all he says and wish that I and my four children could have attended a school such as the one he proposes for Camden; but whatever “faith” a school uses to indoctrinate its pupils, these pupils will leave believing the “faith” of their parents. I and my husband are atheists and our children all attended CofE  primary schools, three CofE secondary schools and one Catholic secondary school.

We answered our children’s questions according to our belief but did not otherwise do anything to undermine the influence of their teachers, as we thought they should have the opportunity to choose and might prefer to have the “comfort” that some people find within the fellowship of a faith. In spite of the efforts of their teachers, all our children are adult atheists and their children seem to be following in the same pattern.

Jane Yerbury Sweeney

Beverley, East Yorkshire


Mediation works and saves money

Until quite recently the usual way of resolving disputes was to go to law, although people were well advised to settle out of court if they could. Now we have seen the rise in the use of mediation. It is less expensive: even high-charging commercial mediators take fewer hours than courts, and there are also voluntary mediation services which cost far less – although they are not free because lay mediators have to be professionally recruited, trained, supported and supervised. 

But Lord Neuburger is wrong to dismiss voluntary mediators as “second best’ (“UK’s top judge attacks Government on legal aid cuts and human rights threats”, 5 March). Mediation can be more effective than the adversarial process and offers a chance of the parties staying on speaking terms.

So the Government’s mistake is to demand cuts across the board: it would make sense to give financial support to the mediation movement, to make possible the much greater savings on legal aid. This could also challenge the movement to form a national umbrella body to promote the establishment of mediation centres nationwide. 

Martin Wright

London SW2


Ofgem acted first on tariffs tangle

Anthony Hilton suggested that the regulator is “going along with Government rhetoric” on energy tariffs in his column on 23 February. This is not the case. It was Ofgem, not the Government, that first proposed that the number of tariffs on offer should be cut, following our investigation into the energy market.

The investigation showed that competition was being stifled by too many complex tariffs, poor behaviour by suppliers, and a lack of transparency about alternative offers. Customers themselves have told us that there are too many complex and differing tariffs to allow them to assess their options properly.

This is why we have responded to their concerns with reforms for a simpler, clearer and fairer market. We are now working to put these radical changes in place from this summer.

Andrew Wright

Senior Partner for Markets

Ofgem, London SW1


Real issues of the old are forgotten

Having friends the same age as the Queen, I know Jane Merrick is right (“All our elderly need the same fuss the Queen got”, 6 March): they should be equally regarded by society. Alas the debate about the elderly seems to concern itself unduly with money, whether perks such as free TV licences and bus travel or arguments over the cost  of care.

Sadly, the real issues such as loneliness and adequacy of treatments get forgotten, the upshot being that many dread having to go into a home while others hardly see a living soul from day to day. Those are matters the Queen won’t understand, having the presence of a husband and the fitness (and wealth) to enjoy a busy life away from the royal palaces.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire


How to deal  with the gropers

Recent claims about men who grope are also largely claims about men who abuse power. Organisations should protect themselves against this by formulating and publishing their policy regarding such behaviour.   

The policy should identify who would deal with the complaints (and who should be as independent of line management as possible). It should also be made clear that the policy has the full backing of top management.

The employer I worked for had such a policy for the past 30 years. I felt that it worked well. Although I was aware of two senior managers who were sacked for inappropriate conduct, there was no great publicity. After events at the BBC and the Lib Dems, it should be seen as a dereliction of responsibility not to set out such a policy.

Vaughan Clarke

Colchester, Essex


Chavez: a guiding light has gone out

It was with much sadness that I learnt of the death of the President of Venezuela, a man who put himself forward to the people 14 times, who lifted the poor of Venezuela out of poverty, and who brought forward huge social programmes, using the vast resources of oil for the benefits of the people – an unknown concept in that part of the world. To many of us on the left, Chavez’s anti-imperialism was a guiding light. He will be missed.

Paul Doran


Reports of  William Hague’s less than generous comment on the death of Hugo Chavez that “he made an impression on his country” leads me to assure Mr Hague that no one will say the same of him.

Brian Mitchell



Time for Italy to reclaim Vatican

Italy should repudiate the Lateran Treaty, send in the tanks to St Peter’s Square and reclaim the territory of the Vatican City. Dodgy dealers who have found a safe haven there would become subject to Italian law – and the foreign criminals among them liable to extradition. This is the only way to tackle the corruption of this strange square mile. And pulling the carpet of worldly power from under the Roman Catholic Church might open the doors to a real reformation within the church.

Trevor Pateman