The decision of Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State, regarding Lewisham Hospital is not a compromise. That is the spin the Government wants to put on it.
He has not retained the A&E dpeartment, if the downgraded "casualty" will not treat standard medical emergenices such as meningitis and pneumonia. There is also no point in having a downgraded maternity unit – only a fully staffed obstetric unit will be as good as services offered elsewhere.
He has ignored local residents, the Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group board, local GPs and hospital consultants. This makes a mockery of the Health and Social Care Bill, which was allegedly introduced to give more decision-making power to local doctors and patients.
I write as a Lewisham GP and resident for the past 27 years. I am not writing as a "nimby". This has implications for health care all over the UK. It appears that it is adminstrators the Secretary of State listens to, not users and doctors.
Dr Monica Aquilina
Your article "Mental hospitals treat patients like prisoners" (30 January) comes as no shock, as there has been ill-treatment of patients in mental hospitals for years. However, the cuts which are running right through all areas of the NHS mean that patients at mental hospitals will receive even less of the treatment which they require.
These are some of the most vulnerable patients and they cannot have faith that they will be cared for and supported.
While the Care Quality Commission criticises mental health services for having too few staff to provide basic services, and a leading mental health trust announces 30 per cent cuts in clinical staff to meet spending targets, the Reading Agency (report, 1 February) suggests reading funny stories as an alternative to treatment.
Meanwhile the Government promotes "equivalence" between mental and physical health care. Satirical black comedy? No, this is mental health policy for the 21st century. Serious mental health problems require serious investment in clinical services. Bill Bryson's books are humorous to read, but for patients the joke is wearing thin.
Dr Chris Jones
Latest bank scandal hits small firms
This is further evidence of the David-and-Goliath challenges small and medium enterprises face to prosper in the current climate ("Banks face £1.5bn payout for mis-selling interest rate products", 31 January). Taking into account the bruising experience of the PPI claims, it will be interesting to see how tight the squeeze on banks will be resulting from this issue.
It's been said time and time again that SMEs will be the ones to re-establish a strong economy in Britain, yet how can they compete when they are fed bad advice by our banks and aren't able to compete on a level playing field with the big players who find ways to cut corners within our tax system?
Compensation would obviously be a positive outcome for mis-selling victims but I worry that it's too little too late. Assuming compensation is forthcoming, reflecting on the time it has taken to identify this practice, how many corner stores or local restaurants will have already experienced severe financial difficulties, or even gone out of business altogether?
Director of Professional Development, Association of Accounting Technicians, London EC1
David Buik ("Bonuses are needed", 30 January) trots out the usual nonsense that bankers must be paid obscene amounts of money to ensure that they do their jobs properly.
I genuinely do not understand this line of argument. Should a bus driver get a bonus every time the bus arrives at its destination? Should bar staff get a bonus every time they pull a pint? Should I, as a university lecturer, get a bonus every time my students get a degree?
Ordinary working people do their jobs properly because that is what they are contracted and paid to do. If they do not do their jobs properly, then they will be dismissed and replaced with someone more competent.
Is there something biologically different about bankers which means that the same rules cannot be applied to them as the rest of us; do your job properly or be sacked?
Disastrous wars in Muslim world
Another fine mess the West seems to have got itself into. Each military intervention we make in the Muslim world has a consequence that takes us by surprise. Mali is the latest in a sorry saga.
Osama Bin Laden was a loyal servant of the US throughout its attempt to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Pakistani scholar Iqbal Ahmad warned prophetically in 1998 against US alliances with Islamic radicals: "Covert operations and low-intensity warfare... are the breeding grounds of terror and drugs.... This fellow [Bin Laden] was an ally. He remained an ally. He turns at a particular moment: in 1990, when the US goes into Saudi Arabia with its forces [to oust the Iraqis from Kuwait].
"For him, America had broken its word: the loyal friend betrayed.... These are the chickens of the [1980s] Afghanistan war coming home to roost."
Three years later came 9/11, with Bush and Blair wading in to overthrow the Taliban government of Afghanistan. Western forces became armies of occupation. Not satisfied with their disastrous handiwork, they turned to Iraq, and managed to unleash al-Qa'ida there, where Saddam would never have given it the time of day. Since then we have been unable to resist meddling in Libya, and we now live with the frightening consequences.
Its long overdue we started listening and learning, rather than hectoring and fighting.
Marilyn Mason (letter, 1 February) condemns the Mali intervention, and writes that if the world needs policing "this is surely a job for a revitalised United Nations, not individual nations".
The current French-led intervention in Mali, in which the British armed forces are playing a small part, is a response to the Malian government's request for help against a jihadi insurgency, and is authorised by the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2071 (12 October 2012), which was adopted unanimously.
SCR 2071 describes Islamist militancy in Mali as a threat to regional peace and security, and authorises the deployment of an international military force to help the Malian authorities recover control of their country.
Stop sulking over Europe
The current European in/out fuss is an annoying distraction from the problems that politicians should be addressing: employment, tax, the economy. The idea of leaving Europe is a nonsense.
Instead of pandering to misguided patriots at home, Hague, Cameron and the Foreign Office should be quietly and informally seducing their opposite numbers around Europe with their plan for a better way to do things, rather than going into a rubber-stamping conference of heads of state at Strasbourg and acting like a petulant child at a family party.
We all know there's a lot wrong with Europe: with the money that washes around, and the absurdly expensive European Parliament machinery. But we're in it; it's our family, so let's sit around the dining table and lay down our cards and improve it, not run off and sulk in our bedroom.
Mary Dejevsky is right to contend that, with the exception of our stubborn insularity about the importance of language learning, the EU's impact on the UK has been considerable and almost entirely beneficial (Voices, 1 February).
However, she misses out one huge benefit to a large community in this country, many of whom can be relied upon to vote in any referendum on EU membership: golfers and the followers of golf. As a member of Team Europe, the UK gets to enjoy winning the Ryder Cup.
Professor David Head
Not the book I read
We must have read different books. I do not recognise any of Joan Smith's assertions about Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell books ("Mantel peddles snobbish period soap-operas", 31 January).
I loved both books, which I found full of politics, with great characterisation of the women as well as the men. They brought the period alive and are an exciting read. Cromwell is not a snob in the books; Smith fails to understand the issues of class that drive the character.
An old pronoun rediscovered
In "Chalk Talk," (31 January), Richard Garner tells how Robert T Gardner wants to invent a gender-neutral pronoun. What is the matter with the old one? I'm 68 years old and have been using it for almost all those years.
I see from the Oxford English Dictionary that it has been around even longer, and that "they," along with its counterparts "them," "their" and "themselves" has been used as a gender-neutral pronoun since at least the 16th century.
Graham P Davis
An underground nuclear waste disposal depository requires a rock that is flexible (so that it won't crack in an earthquake), impermeable and situated in a tectonically stable region with good transport links ("Nuclear dump can't find a home", 31 January). The London clay would seem ideal.
Dr David Wheeler
The Prince of Wales has ridden on a London Tube train. Although HRH and his wife are old enough to qualify for freedom passes, their principal residence is in the county of Gloucestershire, so their free rides in the capital are limited to London's bus network.
Moment of truth
I witnessed a cinema audience applauding over 15 years ago (letter, 31 January). The film was The Full Monty and applause broke out spontaneously at the end as the strippers threw away their hats. Muswell Hill Odeon, oddly enough.