Letters: When hospitals were run by doctors and nurses

These letters appear in the March 5 edition of The Independent

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I have worked in NHS hospitals for over 35 years, and am appalled by the events at Morecambe Bay (“A medical horror story”, 4 March). However, this could not have happened during previous regimes, as responsibility for clinical care rested squarely with the doctors and nurses.

Both the medical director of a hospital and the nursing matron took personal responsibility for the patients under their care, and if anything went amiss they were answerable to their professional bodies, the General Medical Council or the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Now public institutions have been taken over by layers of management who require no professional qualifications and whose priority is to avoid bad publicity and to ensure that no blame attaches to them personally. In the case of hospital chief executives an additional priority is to keep within spending limits and so increase their bonuses.

This toxic combination of competing interests between medical staff and managers explains why whistleblowers are treated so badly, and accounts for the catastrophes unfolding at Morecambe Bay and elsewhere. Scandals will continue as long as managers are not personally accountable for failures.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire


Thank you for your timely editorial regarding the “North Korean school of management” prevailing in the NHS. It isn’t just management that is a problem but also medical culture and traditions. 

There are many committed and communicative health professionals, but there are also many consultants who trained in medicine about 30 years ago and continue to practise a paternalistic approach which was fashionable then, thus depriving members of the public of important information about their medical issues.

Patients need and deserve better communication about medical science translated into lay terms. The internet can be a useful source of information but the danger is that information is not reliable or individualised.

Beatrice Sofaer-Bennett
Lewes, East Sussex


No, don’t forgive child sex abusers

Mary Dejevsky and the two anonymous letter writers (2 March) seem dangerously deluded.

I was abused by two different men: a rabidly anti-Catholic GP, who was also a Protestant minister, and a married Catholic deacon. Investigation showed the two colluded in swapping victims, including me, for at least a decade. The sons and grandsons of these men are serving sentences for abuse.

The anonymous victims may have forgiven their abusers. It, no doubt, gives them a warm glow. It does not stop the abusers. No abuser who says “It was a moment’s rashness, I won’t do it again” tells the truth. The crime of abuse is not a private affair between victim and the abuser, as Catholic clergy like to say. Society has a stake. Society’s interest is that the abuser be exposed and punished.

Moreover, apparently separate abusers are often linked. Abuse can be traced through generations, forward to the present day and backwards to the late 19th century, in my case. It is in society’s interest that it be thoroughly investigated. Only that way can current and future children be properly protected.

Cardinal Hume’s response to a victim was not a one-off. I, too, got much help and support from him, and an apology from the abuser, who had been jailed twice, but was beyond the Cardinal’s canonical jurisdiction. After Father Basil’s death the man was caught abusing again and died in jail. He was never suspended or unfrocked, having important protectors in the Vatican. One bishop even came over to conduct his requiem.

Later that evening a group of us victims gathered to piss on his grave. That gave us a warm glow too. It was as futile as the forgiveness the victims write of.

David Critchard


Move parliament  to Manchester

You report that the Houses of Parliament require £3bn for renovation. This is a sum that, surely, no sane government would spend.

An alternative might be to sell the building and use the proceeds to build something more fit for purpose, say in Manchester. There are many good reasons to do this. First, land and building would be cheaper. It would lend credence to the proposed new Northern Powerhouse and immediately regenerate not only the Manchester environs, but the entire North-west.

Additionally, it would fully justify HS2 and maybe even expedite its construction; it would certainly fill the trains. The MPs would be more centrally located to visit their constituencies.

Of course, such a move would require a very enlightened government.

Alan Gent
Cheadle, Cheshire


Sometimes Matthew Norman’s pieces seem to me to be rather too flippant, but this time (4 March) I think he’s spot on. Moving Parliament to somewhere more central in the UK is an excellent idea, and a good way to save £3bn.

As he points out, the US government is not in New York, Chicago or LA, but neither is the Dutch government in Amsterdam, the Australian in Sydney or the Canadian in Toronto. With modern communications technology most of the civil servants could stay in London.

The depressing thing is that I don’t expect John Bercow or anyone else in Westminster will give serious consideration to this proposal. Apart from the financial benefits it would give us a government less dominated by the capital and more focused on the UK as a whole.

Ian K Watson


A visit from the Keystone Cops

I recently survived an aggravated burglary, involving an armed break-in of my home by three excitable men, wielding a sledgehammer, who demanded to know the whereabouts of a (non-existent) rhino horn.

It took the police a week to remove my CCTV footage, which showed the perpetrators and their car arriving (“Police ‘turning blind eye to property  crime’ ”, 3 March). 

At a London Assembly meeting, Andrew Dismore, the prospective Labour MP for Hendon, helpfully raised with Boris Johnson and the Commissioner of Police, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, the issue of police incompetence in Barnet, which is at the bottom of the league of burglary clear-up rates, at 3 per cent.

Although the Mayor objected to my use of the term “Keystone Cops” to describe certain local officers in the Met, I remain unrepentant, and, given the disturbingly ineffective monitoring by MI5 and Scotland Yard, in respect of Mohammed Emwazi, one does perhaps wonder whether “intelligence” should be renamed.

Gavin Littaur
London NW4


Rolf Harris honour dishonoured

Thank goodness Rolf Harris has been stripped of his title of commander of a non-existent empire. This will send a tough message to would-be abusers. Why not just combine criminal punishment and the annulment of honours by dragging such cases through the Court of Star Chamber and trial by combat?

Please leave judgment and punishment to the criminal justice system, and not to the machinery of patronage and honours.

Ian McKenzie


I’ll gladly pay for the real BBC

Although I do not have a television set and very rarely watch television programmes via a “catch up” facility, I have no objection in principle to paying a universal levy to fund the BBC – just as I am content that the tax I pay should fund government expenditure from which I do not personally benefit. 

But there is one condition. I do expect the BBC to be a public service broadcaster subscribing to broadly Reithian ideals. Thus it must not be what your columnist Mark Leftly calls an enterprising commercial buccaneer. And its news programmes must not descend into the shallow “entertainment” for which they have recently been so rightly castigated.

Adrian West
London N21


A sincere hypocrite

Alan Bennett’s contribution to The World at One’s celebration on the theme of England’s hypocrisy, broadcast last Monday, was witty and sharply observed. And good news for John Dakin (letter, 4 March): he can “unget” his goat (or do whatever one does with goats); Bennett concluded his talk by saying that he too was a hypocrite, for he was English.

Professor Guy Woolley


Vote Green and elect the Tories

If Peter Hain is right and a vote for Greens this time will actually elect a Tory government, as did a vote for the Liberal Democrats last time, then surely the fault lies not in ourselves but in a badly flawed electoral system?

Merrill Johns