Letters: Where should you take a sick child?

These letters appear in the 29 November issue of The Independent

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When Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in the Commons he had chosen A&E over the GP for his children (report, 26 November), I imagine parents across the country were sympathetic. Every parent wants their child to be seen quickly by a healthcare professional when they are ill, and for many the default option – whether due to opening hours, waiting times or convenience – is A&E.

Hospitals are too often seen as the place to be despite the Government urging A&E attendance only in real emergencies. We estimate up to 16 per cent of children who arrive in A&E could have their care effectively managed outside hospitals.

The question is, what are the alternatives? What should you do if your child is ill in the evening and, although you suspect it’s not too serious, you’re worried enough to want medical advice immediately?

Extending GP opening hours is one part of the solution, but more needs to be done to move more care for children outside hospitals. That means measures such as better child-health training for GPs and co-locating services in community settings – creating “child health hubs” where GPs, paediatricians, nurses and other professionals can provide high-quality local provision.

Unless we start thinking about delivering health differently and providing viable alternatives, the A&E crisis will continue to worsen.

Dr Hilary Cass

President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, London WC1


It beggars belief that Jeremy Hunt is unaware of the arrangements for GP consultations at the weekend. All practices have out-of-hours services which can be contacted by telephone at weekends and at night time. Usually a call to the practice will be directed to a doctor who is either a member of the practice or employed by them and a visit to an out-of-hours service can be arranged if necessary. I first worked as a GP in 1983 and ever since then out-of-hours cover has been available.

It is hard to have any confidence in a health minister who has so little knowledge of how the system works. 

Dr Margaret Safranek

London N10


I read with interest your report of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s defence of his decision to take his children to an A&E department, in direct contradiction of HMG’s advice that we present ourselves to our GP or out-of-hours service if the problem isn’t life threatening.

Whatever the particular circumstances, the cruel irony is that, had there been no successful legal challenge to Mr Hunt’s acceptance of the South London Healthcare Trust Special Administrator’s recommendation that Lewisham Hospital’s A&E department be closed, he wouldn’t have had the luxury of such a choice, assuming that the problem had occurred here.

Jeremy Redman

London SE6


As Jeremy Hunt seems only to have insight into those issues in which he has had personal experience, perhaps he would like to work a few 12-hour shifts on an acute medical ward.

I think he would be awarding himself that 1 per cent pay rise within no time.

David Bennetts

Blandford Forum, Dorset


Palestine should embrace the ICC

Tomorrow marks two years since Palestine was granted non-member observer state status at the UN. The 138-9 vote paved the way for the bilateral recognitions of Palestinian statehood that have swept across Europe of late (“European Parliament considers initiative to recognise Palestine”,  26 November).

It also opened the door to international justice, by further clarifying that Palestine can become a party to the Rome Statute, and thus bring itself under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

ICC accession would mean all actors, including Palestinian armed groups and the Israeli authorities, could be held to account for commission of war crimes in Gaza and beyond, and the missing ingredient of accountability would be introduced to this too-long running conflict.

And yet, the Palestinians have so far declined go to the ICC. Their reluctance can, in part, be put down to misguided pressure from Europeans not to do so, which runs counter to EU support for the Court in other cases.

Two years ago, Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas said the UN vote showed “that justice is possible”. As the region continues to be gripped by violence and deep mistrust, the prospects of such justice remain elusive.

European countries must now lift their opposition to ICC jurisdiction on the situation, which would help end impunity and bring justice for Palestinian and Israeli victims of crimes under international law.

William Bell

Senior Advocacy officer, Middle East, Christian Aid

Annemarie Gielen

Secretary General,  Pax Christi Flanders

José Henriquez

Secretary General,  Pax Christi International

Lieve Herijgers

Director, Broederlijk Delen

Karim Lahidji

President, FIDH (International Federation  for Human Rights)

Philip Luther

Director, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Amnesty International


Mitchell case is a triumph for justice

Andrew Mitchell’s case (28 November) proves that no one is above the law in this land. Britain stands as a beacon of justice and human rights. The country has always been a haven for those fleeing racial, social and religious persecution, oppression, intimidation and corruption. Perhaps this is the most intriguing part of its success story throughout centuries.

Where else on earth can you find a country where the rulers and the ruled stand on an equal footing before the law? The alternative to this is what we are witnessing in Ukraine, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria, Libya, the occupied Palestinian territories, and even in Ferguson in the US.

As John Locke, one of the greatest English philosophers and enlightenment thinkers, eloquently put it: “Whenever law ends, tyranny begins”.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2


The verdict in the Andrew Mitchell trial is bad news for all those who believe the class struggle is dead. It seems clear that the battle between patricians and plebs that the historian EP Thompson identified as a key feature of 18th-century England is with us still.

Keith Flett

London N17


Andrew Mitchell has been found guilty because, the judge said, the police officer in question did not have the “wit or imagination” to make up the damning phrases... Mmm – I think I would have preferred to have been called a pleb.

Tony Webb



Who should pay for the UK’s veterans?

Your efforts to raise awareness and cash for war veterans are laudable. However, it is not the general public who sent troops to war. I suggest that the governments that did do so should be responsible for any related problems in the future, and fund this through the taxation system. This could be done simply by creating a patriotic tax and hypothecating the money for veterans only. This could be collected through the current system and might have the added benefit of shaming tax avoiders.

Why not impose a windfall tax on the companies that made billions from the wars, to cover these costs?

William Park

Kilsby, Northamptonshire


Well, it didn’t take long for the party leaders to pledge support for your appeal.

While I support your appeal I strongly feel that you do a disservice to veterans if you fail to highlight that tens of thousands of ex-service personnel would not require charity if successive governments had not robbed them of their pensions.

The history of the Armed Forces Pension Group campaign is well documented; it has had plenty of support, with even Cherie Blair involved in our legal fight, which we lost!

It’s a disgrace how politicians evade dealing with this inequality and pay lip service to veterans.

Francis Vincent

Market Bosworth, Leicestershire


Balls aimed at players are just not cricket

While wholeheartedly extending deepest condolences to Phil Hughes’s family and colleagues and indeed sympathy to Sean Abbott, the tragedy is a sharp reminder of the real dangers of cricket and bouncers in particular. Once upon a time, bowling which was a direct attack on a batsman was outlawed, but nowadays hardly a test match goes by without the spectacle of batsmen being subject to what the commentators call “a good working over” or some such euphemism which in reality means a barrage of short stuff imperilling life and limb.

Is it too much to hope that head-high bouncers will be definitely outlawed (maybe with a five-run penalty at least) so that we may enjoy a contest between bat and ball rather than having to watch ducking and weaving in avoidance of deliveries persistently and deliberately aimed at a batsman?

Andrew Horton

Hemel Hempstead, Herts