Letters: World-beating value for money on the NHS

These letters appear in the June 23 issue of the Independent

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The Reform think-tank, which receives funding from private healthcare firms, and advises the Prime Minister, claims the NHS is too “hostile to competition” (report, 18 June).

The recent Commonwealth Fund report, ranking UK health care first of 11 nations, has not stopped the Government from calling for further savings. I have seen little comment on another aspect of the report: the cost per capita of services. The UK is number 10 on the list of 11, with only New Zealand managing to spend less.

This value for money is world-beating, and calling for more “efficiency savings” is entirely unrealistic. Competition will not help; no commercial organisation could compete, if subject to the NHS’s obligation to offer the best treatment to everybody, whatever their condition, whenever they need it and wherever they live.

The public and healthcare professionals alike are well aware that the NHS has shortcomings, but the reason is not wilful behaviour by the staff, just lack of resources at almost every level. The Government refuses to implement Review Body recommendations (except for parliamentarians), expensive treatments are restricted in availability, and any spare cash is too often eaten up in PFI repayments.

Think-tanks and politicians alike seem motivated by a desire to maintain inequality of wealth distribution, in this case by increasing inequality of health care. Perhaps reporting more on the value of the NHS, not merely its cost, would help us to understand the need for more funding, not less?

Gerald Freshwater,

Retired NHS Consultant

Lerwick, Shetland


British values aren’t that easy

Your article on Siegfried Sassoon (12 June) reminded me of a story I used to tell to my history students at Rock Ferry High School on the outskirts of Birkenhead.

During his stay on Merseyside in 1917, Sassoon is said to have thrown his Military Cross into the River Mersey close to where I taught. We used to discuss Sassoon in some depth, as we did several of the War Poets. Since then, of course, his medal has been found, though the MC ribbon was sent floating away on the river “in a paroxysm of exasperation” at the conduct of the war.

As a teacher, who has witnessed the harm Michael Gove has inflicted upon the teaching profession, I am sure Mr Gove would be proud of me, in promoting those “British values” of encouraging my pupils to challenge blind devotion to authority, to keep as open a mind as possible, and to chaff at anyone who so blandly asserts that “British values” are so easily defined as to be received rather than come to.

Nowell Snaith

Llangollen, Denbighshire


May we assume that a list of British values will contain few of the following? Respect and honour for the elderly; disgust at pornography; protection of the young from the profiteering persuasions of drugs and alcohol; little interest on loans to the needy; modesty; daily acknowledgement of the beauty of the world; a delight that families can live, work and be together as a regular thing.

Who do these Muslims think they are?

Ian Flintoff



Surely the most British of values would be stop banging on about them.

Martin Hollywood



Next door to a rogue landlord

I was delighted to read Jonathan Brown’s article (14 June) on rogue landlords. I have suffered from a rogue landlord for the past 26 years. I am not a tenant, I am a neighbour.

This landlord bought the neighbouring house to ours about two years after we moved in. We were horrified.

We knew that he would simply let his property degenerate into a state of dilapidation, and so it turned out.

For most of that period I have had to complain to my local council about him from time to time. To little avail. Since last Christmas I have been protesting more and more vehemently, and my council has at last been treating me seriously. However, it has had no effect at all on the landlord. I have sent my complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman, because although the council has recently been making valiant efforts on my behalf it has still had absolutely no success. Predictably.

TV programmes and newspaper articles rightly condemn rogue landlords because they exploit tenants. But when will anyone ever speak up for the thousands and thousands of neighbours who have to endure not only filth and negligence, but the loss in value and saleability of their own property, through no fault of their own?

Name and address not supplied


Let the grass grow in our parks

Recent correspondents (14 and 18 June) wrote about over-management of grass in parks. The Downs is an area of grassland in Bristol. It forms the western boundary to the city and was originally used for grazing sheep. It is larger than Hyde Park in London.

Every year, areas of the Downs are left uncut. We enjoy carpets of wild flowers which change as spring becomes summer. The grass continues to grow and it is now waist-high. In a few weeks, these meadows will be cut for silage.

Such “wild spaces” are much valued as areas of undisturbed biodiversity and they get better each year.

Robert Benton



Young Scotland wants to stay British

Christopher Hirst says (Books, 21 June) that Gordon Brown’s “relentless didacticism” in his My Scotland, Our Britain  “will have limited appeal, especially among the 98,000 16- and 17 -year-olds whose votes may be crucial”.

Brown doesn’t need to worry. School polls of those eligible to vote have shown overwhelming majorities for staying in the UK; 79.4 per cent of 11,653 pupils in Aberdeenshire in September last year and 71.3 per cent of 964 pupils in Moray last week voted No.

Hugh Pennington



One down, 30 to go

Of the 32 nations in the World Cup finals, 31 will fail at some point. At least England got their crushing disappointment in early.

Richard Walker

London W7


Don’t abolish private schools, learn from them 

Pupils at private schools have two things in common: they have parents who care about their education, and they have parents who can pay for it. What these pupils do not have in common is academic ability. 

Private schools have to cope with a huge range of abilities. Yet most of their pupils emerge equipped to earn their living: they can speak and write properly in English and are reasonably numerate. Often a talent will have been identified that will be of use to them as an adult: in sports, or mechanics, or music. They have been educated to talk well with adults, to appear self-confident, how to be polite and how to behave in interviews. 

For these reasons, it is likely that fewer of them will end up as unemployed. So their parents save public money in two ways: they pay for schooling, and they produce children unlikely to be on the dole. Probably these children will grow up to earn more and contribute more as taxpayers. The answer is not to destroy what works. Far from destroying private schools, as urged by Alan Bennett, we should be looking at why they work so well. 

We can try to imitate private schools’ advantages in our state schools: smaller classes; pay teachers more, asking them to take evening classes and clubs in term-time; have a discipline system that really works. 

In particular, provide a wider range of subjects and activities to pick out those abilities that lie latent. Ensure there are excellent musical facilities. Provide drama and debating to encourage self-confidence. Make available fringe subjects like Greek and philosophy. Art in all its forms can show up unsuspected gifts. After-school clubs: utilise those expensive school facilities for activities such as photography, graphic design, car maintenance and mechanics, carpentry and plumbing, cooking, gardening. There should be classes in basic finance skills. And of course there should be a quiet place to do homework.

Yes, it would cost more money, but that would probably be saved if a more self-confident and better-equipped generation of children didn’t end up on the dole, or in the courts.

Alison Willott

Tregaer, Monmouth


Janet Street-Porter (Voices, 21 June) may agree with Alan Bennett that independent schools should be abolished, but how  do you deal with the  fact that some parents will gain advantage by buying private tuition for their children?

Her idea to reintroduce grammar schools will not eliminate this fee-paying service.

The only way to deal with the advantage of money is for the state sector to provide a better service.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands