Letters: Why not just spend more on the NHS, as others do?

These letters appear in the June 4 edition of The Independent

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NHS funding is a problem not just because it is a bottomless pit, but because in comparison with other Western countries it is underfunded. The UK spends about 8 per cent of GDP on health; other compatible countries are well over 10 per cent, closer to 12 per cent.

If the UK can pass a law that we spend 0.7 per cent on overseas aid, and aim to spend nearly 2 per cent on defence, it would take a great deal of heat out of the argument if the UK aimed for parity on health with other Western economies, taking into account our ageing population, preferably including social care, rather than trying to pare the NHS to the bone.

We do not pay our medical staff a decent wage and consequently are having to recruit staff in and outside Europe, at the expense of their training programmes and sick population, and vastly increasing our immigration problem. We need joined-up political thinking on better funding for the NHS.

Rosanne Bostock


Peter Stanford accurately describes himself as an amateur when it comes to understanding the recruitment and training process for medicine (“A medical emergency”, 2 June). Training more doctors is a false solution.

To train a GP costs nearly £500,000 over 10 years. If GPs are retiring at 55, then we are getting only 25 years of work for this money, a horrible waste. At the same time, newly qualified GPs cannot hope to perform to the same level as more experienced colleagues, meaning even more patients put at risk and so even more GPs needed.

The solution to the problem has to be to retain GPs once we train them. This means looking at what is driving GPs out of the service, not what’s keeping them from getting in.

No one wants to do this, because that means negotiating with well-paid, experienced doctors backed by the British Medical Association. Far easier to offer a pretty solution to A-level students, who have no union and are desperate for jobs they will learn to hate by the time they are 50.

Thomas Doel (Medical student)


The article by a parent of a would-be medical student (2 June) outlines some of the reasons for the shortage of GPs. My daughter has just qualified as a doctor and I asked her, if she had her time again, would she re-apply. She said yes – but she wished someone had told her more about the process when she started. 

Getting into medical school is only a start. The process of applying for foundation posts is very hard and these young people have little control over their lives or location. With a base salary for the first year of under £23,000, she jokes that she will earn a third of her boyfriend’s pay for twice the hours.

They are required to rotate every four months, often involving very different hospitals – then after two years the application process all starts again. There are continuing exams for the next eight years, unsocial hours and of course huge responsibility.  

So the brightest of the young apply starry eyed to be doctors, and often end up tired and cynical and looking for alternatives so they can have a life.

Clare Pollard
London SW19


Peter Stanford points out that it costs £175,000 to train a doctor. So it seems extraordinary not to try to keep them in this country once they qualify. An increasing number of GPs and A&E doctors are emigrating to countries where they may find cheaper houses and higher salaries to repay their student loans.

Why not offer newly registered doctors a refund of their loans over five years if they agree to stay in the NHS for that period? By the end of that time they would probably be well settled in work that suits them. 

Dr Margaret Safranek
London N10


Kennedy was right  to resist coalition

The Coalition did not “reflect the will of the people” (editorial, 3 June). The people were not consulted in any way about a deal stitched up behind closed doors to further the desire for power of Lib Dem and Conservative politicians.

In 2010 I wrote to Nick Clegg begging him not to enter the embrace of the boa constrictor, as I predicted the Lib Dems  would be crushed. He took not the blindest bit of notice, the party has been ruined and we now have no credible opposition to the Conservative juggernaut. 

Charles Kennedy was absolutely right to resist the siren voices telling us the Coalition was “for the good of the country”. I hope those at the top of the Liberal Democrat party are now reflecting on their lamentable stupidity.

Glynne Williams
London E17


Critical look at the EU from the left

Much of the EU debate is polarised between people who identify with the right and are eurosceptic, and those who identify with the left and are pro-Europe and in favour of open borders with Europe.

I am on the liberal left politically, and for the following reasons I want us to leave the EU.

The EU, with its Common Agricultural Policy, is a protectionist organisation which has devastated the lives of many Third World farmers.

The EU centralises decision-making and weakens democracy. For this reason alone, Liberal Democrats should be the last people to support our continued membership.

The UK has a proud tradition of offering sanctuary to people who need to flee their own countries. Our record is not as good as some, but better than many. Unlimited economic immigration can only reduce the numbers granted asylum.

Unlimited economic immigration depresses the wages and conditions of the poorest working people. This is why the business community, on the whole, is so pro-EU: it means an unending supply of cheap labour.

Unlimited economic immigration, especially from Eastern Europe, is undermining the prosperity of the countries which are losing their workforce.

John Davison
London SW16


A pay rise for hypocritical MPs

When an independent wage review body recommended a 1 per cent pay increase for nurses the health minister stopped it as the country could not afford it. Now that an independent body has awarded MPs a 10 per cent increase it seems they are powerless to stop it. MPs are a bunch of hypocrites; yet they wonder why they are so reviled.

Malcolm Howard
Banstead, Surrey


Morgan wants to put schools in chains

So, changing the name to “Academy” is going to address the “failing school” malaise! But what is this perfidious malaise?

Isn’t it based on, first, a flawed and politically controlled school inspection system with an Ofsted metric dominated by political targets; and second, a teaching and learning system in our schools which has, inexorably over the past 20 years, been ground down into a “coaching for results” model?

The more cynical might also see an unhealthy link between Nicky Morgan’s eulogising of “chains” of academies and the outdated “school as factory” model. When did chains ever liberate anybody?

Bill Boyle
Professor of Education, University of Manchester


Career and family: a strange explanation

I enjoyed the James Ashton Interview with Dame Colette Bowe (1 June). However, I cannot begin to understand why he wrote: “Such a full career might explain why she never married.”

I have never read a similar sentiment about a man in a newspaper interview.

Joan Bailes


Not known at this address

A friend moved home a few months ago. She notified all relevant organisations of her change of address. One, a pension provider, continued to send mail to her previous address. She wrote to them again, pointing out their error and asking them to update their records.

She received a response, apologising and assuring her that this had now been done. The letter had been forwarded from her old address.

Keith O’Neill


Pretending to be disabled

As part of his or her profession, an actor may have to pretend to be many things: a Chinese emperor, a brilliant scientist, an intergalactic alien. This is known as “acting”. They may have to ape a different gender, or even species. I do not understand why Merry Cross (letter, 2 June) is so offended by an actor pretending to be disabled.

Alex Lewis
Lemsford, Hertfordshire


After Blatter, don’t forget the workers

Should the World cup be withdrawn from Qatar, with presumably the building of the stadiums abandoned, I hope Fifa will acknowledge their moral duty to pay, in full, the wages of the construction workers.

Nerina Diaz
Heversham, Cumbria